Finding music and meaning through the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth

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MUSIC has transformative powers: it heals, it relaxes, it brings people together, and, it also opens doors for opportunities.

In Venezuela, the power of music was harnessed when Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu founded El Sistema in 1975, a music program that teaches children and young adult’s music, specifically classical music. The South American program has produced many musicians who now enjoy their own music-related careers. One of the system’s graduates is Joshua Dos Santos, whose mother enrolled him in El Sistema at the age of seven. At 16, he made his conducting debut. Now he’s paying it forward, having taken on the role of conductor for the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth (OFY).

OFY is the orchestra arm of Ang Misyon Inc., (AMI), a nonprofit organization that provides free music lessons to Filipino children of disadvantaged families.

AMI was inspired by Valenzuela’s El Sistema.

AMI’s president and co-founder Federico R. Lopez said during a press conference on Sept. 13 that Filipinos love music, “and the inspiration behind the organization is turning this force, this music, for people to uplift their lives.”

Mr. Lopez said music could open doors for experiences, new knowledge, and opportunities. So far, AMI has helped more than 900 scholars.

Along with Mr. Lopez, AMI was cofounded by Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz and Eugenio Lopez III.

Of the many youths that the organization has helped, five were present at the press conference, which aimed to explain what AMI has been doing.

The young musicians were Vera Cuevas, Justine Valderama, Carmela Casas, Paolo Imperial, and JM Eserjose. As members of OFY, these young people will perform at a concert in Qatar on Oct. 25 and 26 at the Qatar National Library and Katara Opera House.

The orchestra’s repertoire will include Rey Valera’s “Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko,” Damaso Perez Prado’s “Mambo No. 8∏ and “Que Rico Mambo,” Arturo Marquez’ Danzon No. 2, Giuseppe Verdi’s “Nabucco Overture,” and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 12 in D minor op. 112.

The orchestra’s Venezuelan conductor Mr. Dos Santos called the AMI scholars “gold” and he said they needed training to mine their full potential.

To do so, AMI offers the scholars professional music lessons, instrument support, opportunities for local and international concerts, and chances to be junior mentors to younger scholars.

Imbes na sa computer, piyesa at instrumento ang mas mabuting kaharap ng mga bata (Instead of a computer, it is better that the children be in front of musical scores and instruments),” said Ms. Casas, one of the scholars who’s excited to share her music abroad. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman