Coaching with Peter Winograd (center) of the American String Quartet at Manhattan School of MusicFor most people, it takes a lifetime for a dream to come true. For others, it takes 10 or more years. For seven members of the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth (OFY), it took a few intense yet fulfilling months for us to live a three-week dream: traveling to the US to represent the Filipino youth and the Philippines, to spread awareness in six concerts in three East Coast states.
Ang Misyon’s first international awareness and educational tour was held from May 19 to June 8, 2016. Violinists Ryan Rodriguez, Germain Gomez and myself, violists Vera Mei Cuevas and Sophia Chua, cellist Jovilyn Balilo and double bassist Paolo Imperial were selected among the 58 members of the OFY to form a Quorum, the chamber music element of Ang Misyon’s Sistema for the Filipino Youth.
In the two months leading to the trip, Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz, the artistic director of Ang Misyon, and Juan Luis Muñoz, one of Ang Misyon’s artists faculty, pushed us to our limits, demanding of us impeccable intonation and execution of notes along with emotion and artistic interpretation. They also required us to memorize the eight pieces we would be performing; not only did this help us communicate better with each other, but we were able to perform more confidently as we were no longer shackled to our sheet music and stands.
The audiences at the Philippine Center, the United Nations, the Church of St. Francis Xavier and the Brotherhood Synagogue in New York, the Church of the Epiphany in Washington DC as well as the Zion Lutheran Church in New Jersey overwhelmed us with multiple standing ovations we never expected to experience on this trip.
In addition, the vice president for Education of the New York Philharmonic, Theodore Wiprud, provided us coaching sessions with their members— 27-year veteran Sharon Yamada and teaching artist Mitch Lyon. Ang Misyon’s visiting mentor Chie Yoshinaka also provided a master class for us with sensational violinist Peter Winograd of the American String Quartet.
The concerts, the hour periods of music we prepared for in months, the result of all-nighters and breakdowns, and the reason that brought us together in the first place were what turned, rather “metamorphosed,” us seven from students to scholars, from musicians to artists, from simple Filipinos to recognized citizens of humankind.
Since we’ve encountered transformation and countless blessings through classical music, we yearn to help others experience it as well, so that we can lift our fellow Filipinos from the murky waters of drugs, poverty and crime. Change on a large scale starts with a simple helping hand. After all, classical music is about love, joy, passion and service!
Axelle Miel, 14, is a violinist with the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth.