The Orchestra of the Filipino Youth celebrates ten years of music in its first live concert since the pandemic at the CCP, under the baton of Gerard Salonga.
“It is every musician’s job to share the beauty of music with as many people as possible,” according to Gerard Salonga, the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth’s (OFY) music director and conductor, who began his term as music director for the OFY in January of 2021.
Salonga was appointed by Maestro Jaap van Zweden as assistant conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra where he served for two seasons in 2016 to 2018. He is currently the resident conductor of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in Kuala Lumpur, a position he has held since January 2019.
Through the last decade, Ang Misyon, Inc., a non-profit organization has been providing free music education and instrument support to talented, less privileged Filipino youth. It has remained focused on honing the musical skills and talents of young musicians, specifically its main performing arm the OFY. Since its founding in 2012, it has nurtured musicians as young as six years old and has reached areas nationwide.
Salonga explains, “First of all we are here to provide music scholarships for talented young musicians who do not have the means of paying for the lessons themselves. That’s the simplest way of describing what we do.”
To celebrate its tenth anniversary, the OFY has partnered with the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA), an organization that holds a similar mission of providing opportunities for young Filipino musicians to share their talent and thrive in a community-driven platform. A concert entitled “OFY Ten: Celebrating Ten Years of Music” was held at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo in the Cultural Center of the Philippines on October 8. This was the first-since-pandemic live concert by the OFY, and was a performance that included scholars and mentors who were past winners of NAMCYA in one stage.
Under the baton of Salonga, the evening was an impactful journey of classical pieces and compositions. The OFY transported the audience to one of the greatest orchestral symphonies ever written by Ludwig van Beethoven, “Symphony No.5 in C minor,” which runs approximately 30 minutes— upholding a testament to the skill level and focus of a youth orchestra. From the iconic classics, the repertoire brought us back to homegrown compositions by our very own Philippine National Artists for Music Colonel Antonino Buenaventura, Lucio San Pedro, and Ryan Cayabyab. “Mindanao Sketches” by Buenaventura gave a glimpse of the cultural movements and sounds of the Manobo tribe in Mindanao, while “Lahing Kayumanggi” by San Pedro brings forth the rhythm of the kumintang. For a touch of contemporary, “Tsismis” by Cayabyab was played in the second half of the show. This version of “Tsismis” was arranged by Salonga himself, as a tribute to his revered mentor and performed by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra during Cayabyab’s 60th birthday in 2014. The same piece was learned by the OFY this year as part of their milestone concert. The encore piece was “Danzon No. 2” by Arturo Marquez, which as the maestro shared, was popularized by a youth orchestra in Venezuela.
The OFY’s curriculum was designed to prepare the scholars for professional levels. The purpose has been driven by commitment, discipline, and teamwork during weekly one-on-one lessons and sectionals with their mentors and peers. Aside from preparing for performances and concerts such as “OFY Ten,” the program aims to carry through a vision of reaching elevated music standards, while empowering the youth who could be musical ambassadors of the country.
A glimpse of a bright future is seen through the success stories of the OFY scholars. There are those who have moved forward to make music as a full-time profession while some have started mentoring younger musicians.
Salonga shares, “These are inspiring results that reaffirm the work that we do and a great example that art is an essential part of life and is in fact a form of livelihood for many. There are various art forms out there, and music serves as a universal language we can all connect with. It can also be one of the most transformative, as it can uplift lives and bring hope to others.”
As Ang Misyon and its flagship program ushers in the next chapter, there are hopes of continuing the work in the years to come. Though institutionally founded by the Lopez Group of Companies including ABS-CBN Corporation, First Philippine Holdings and First Gen Corporation, there are ways to help keep the music scholarships going for those who may not have the financial capability to master an instrument or play in an orchestra.
Salonga invites the public by saying, “You can be a tremendous part of this. We’d love to have you with us in our mission and our advocacy.”
In an Instagram post, the OFY expressed their gratitude: “Isang pasasalamat mula sa Orchestra of the Filipino Youth para sa isang dekada ng musika. Celebrating ten years of music with you mga kasama, kaibigan at kapamilya, we could not have done this without you!”