THIRTY-SIX young musicians have collectively qualified to represent the Philippines in the Summa Cum Laude International Music Festival in Vienna in July.
These members of the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra will compete against similar youth groups from Austria, Germany, China, United States, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Spain, and Italy.
The contest will be held at the prestigious Golden Hall of the Musikverein.
The MSJO, whose members are between nine and 21 years old playing the violin, viola and cello, has also been invited to play in concert venues in Salzburg, Munich and Prague. They will go on to the Sound of Music tour and undergo tutorials and workshops by the best music teachers in Europe.
The trip does not come free. The tour fee and airfare will be shouldered, partly by the families of the children and partly by the orchestra through scholarships.
MSJO’s executive director and conductor Jeffrey Solares is hard pressed to raise at least P2.5 million for the orchestra’s share in the expenses. He has explored numerous ways to come up with the funds. He has been talking to potential sponsors, institutions and individuals both, and has begun on online crowd funding campaign through gogetfunding.com.
On May 27, the children will have a fund-raising concert at the Manila House at Netpark, Bonifacio Global City.
Meanwhile, the families of the young musicians are also doing their best to provide their share, realizing that this is an opportunity that does not come by often to just anyone.
The young musicians have to play from among a list of pre-selected pieces that would best show their skill and technique.
They rehearse on weekends especially now that most of them are on summer vacation from school. Yes, they are typical teenagers who must attend regular school, play games, spend time with their friends and families. When they get their instruments out of their cases, however, and sit in front of their sheet music, they are transformed into another set of youngsters altogether.
It’s a set that does not mind long hours of rehearsals and traveling to different venues for their performances. Usually, they practice at the mall, at the space near the MSO Academy branch in Glorietta, Makati City.
Last November, they had their debut, Strings Like Teen Spirit, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. They made the rounds of Ayala malls during the Christmas season. They play regularly at Concert at the Park, Luneta.
What do they play? It’s a mix of classical pieces, original Pilipino music and even arrangements of modern rock and pop songs—think Coldplay. Think Nirvana.
But the Summa Cum Laude competition is a different challenge altogether. Rehearsals are more punishing—and it is to the credit of their parents who tirelessly bring them to these venues and wait for them that they are able to do what they do. And derive some fun out of it, in the process.
It will be a great experience, no doubt. But the cost of the travel is prohibitive. Many of the young musicians come from lower- or middle-income families who, while able to provide for basic needs, no longer have additional funds to cover a European trip.
This is a call for help for all those who support the arts and believe in the ability of children to bring pride and honor to the country.
The MSJO members are talented and hardworking. Their years-long study of music has given them discipline to balance orchestra work with other aspects of being a teenager.
Going on this trip will no doubt hone their skills, strengthen their camaraderie and develop their passion for music. They will serve as good examples to their peers and other young people to pursue their dreams and work hard at them, no matter the obstacles.
Why support music? It feeds the soul. It inspires us to do better. It tells us there is nothing we cannot do.