Thursday, December 27, 2012

Musicians' Perspective: Week 3, Day 7

Today was another busy day in Manila. We started the day at the Ayala Museum, where the dancers would later perform. The museum is gorgeous, and had a lot of great exhibits. The first one we saw was "Gold of Ancestors: Pre-Colonial Treasures in the Philippines" We had never seen so much gold in one place, from early pieces hammered out of gold, to some beautifully ornate crowns and necklaces. Next was an exhibit displaying 18th- and 19th-Century embroidered Philippine clothing. We finished our short time there by looking at the Diorama Experience, a floor containing over sixty dioramas depicting the history of the Philippines from 50,000 B.C. to the present. We were struck by what a violent history the Philippines has had, continuously being occupied by China, Spain, the British, the Japanese, and the United States. The dioramas were incredible, painted and carved with great detail.

After getting to see the exhibits, the dancers gave a performance in the lobby of the museum. Several families that were visiting the museum had wandered over to check it out. Chelsea and Kendra spoke about Project Philippines and each of us introduced ourselves as members of the team. Then, we showed an excerpt of the film about Project Philippines 2008. The members were very attentive as the dancers performed and had questions about the project at the end. We later found out that the man who helped record the music for the 2008 documentary was in the audience to show his continued support for the team!

We had just enough time to go across the street to The Landmark, another shopping mall that had very reasonably-priced clothes. We had left our dress clothes at PHSA and needed something to wear to the PPO concerts. We each got some shoes, and Brian got a "barong," a traditional dress shirt often worn by Filipino men. Perhaps he was inspired by their visit to the museum.

The ballet that Ballet Philippines did was "Crisostomo Ibarra," based on the novel Noli Me Tángere by Jose Rizal. It was a little hard to understand, since all of the text they projected was in Tagalog, but Midori and I really loved the dancing and the music was wonderful, haunting yet beautiful. The music was written by a living Filipino composer, and it happened to be a chamber piece for clarinet, bassoon, violin, cello and piano! After that, we caught Madame Butterfly, which was quite a production with very talented singers.

Outside of CCP at night.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Musicians' Perspective: Week 3, Day 6

We returned to Manila today alongside the students at PHSA on their buses. Fridays are the days they go home, or to host family houses for the weekend, and also take private lessons. We had a good time talking to some of the students, specifically a violinist (and composer, as we would later discover), Art. The dancers went straight to the Cultural Center of the Philippines to teach more classes, and Midori and Brian took advantage of the time off to visit the Greenbelt Mall, a large mall that basically consisted of five interconnected sections, some outdoor. Each section seemed to have its own theme, one was for appliances, one was more international stores, one was for high-end boutiques, etc. The mall also houses the Ayala Museum where we will be going tomorrow.

Cultural Center of the Philippines
After spending a little over an hour there, we took a taxi back to the CCP to wait for the dancers to finish their class. In the meantime, we wandered into the office marked "Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra." We explained who we were and said that we would love to sit in on a rehearsal or meet any orchestra musicians, if possible. The woman introduced us to the man who was in the office with her, Adolfo "Pong" Mendoza, the principal bassoonist with the orchestra. He was happy to meet us and walked us around backstage introducing us to the principal and second clarinetists (Ariel and Victorino), the concertmaster, and the conductor of the PPO. They were all so nice and generous, and even gave us a free bag of the chicharon they had backstage. Pong had some time before their concert that evening, and so he asked if we wanted to grab a cup of coffee with him. We went to a nearby Starbucks (yes, they have Starbucks in the Philippines), and talked about music, Project Philippines, and what our plans were while we were there, while watching the sun set over the water of Manila Bay. We even discussed the possibility of us visiting the University of the Philippines in St. Thomas where many of the PPO members teach, and giving a masterclass. Unfortunately, this ended up not working out, but we definitely have something to plan on for our next trip!

Brian and Midori with members of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Bassoon and Chicharon. What more can you ask for?

When we got back to CCP, Pong had had a little bit of free time, so he and Midori got to "geek out" a little, playing each others' instruments. Pong makes and sells his own custom bassoon (and clarinet) reeds, and so Midori got to try some of these reeds, and he let her keep one! Before leaving for his performance, he asked if we wanted to hear them play tomorrow, and we said absolutely yes! He said he could get us comp tickets to the Ballet Philippines performance, as well as the opera's performance of Madame Butterfly.

It was around this time that the dancers got out, and we went out to dinner at a nearby restaurant with the director of Ballet Philippines. We had a really good time, and ate some great food. Afterwards, Brian won Midori a stuffed pig from a small carnival game set up nearby. What a productive day!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Musicians' Perspective: Week 3, Day 5

We started today by performing and doing a Q&A for Jay's Music Appreciation class. We got into some pretty "big" topics when one of the students asked if we imagine and picture what we are trying to communicate when we play. She explained that we she dances (she was a dance student) she has a clear image of what she is dancing about. We agreed and used this as a way to point out similarities between all art forms, and encouraged the students to collaborate with their peers in other disciplines in such a diverse artistic environment like PHSA.

We taught our masterclass today on performance anxiety and performance techniques. We heard a couple more performers before teaching another 3 hours of private lessons. One of Midori's lessons included one with a singer, and the lesson went really well. She introduced the concept of "support" to the singer, a technique used by wind players and singers where the abdominal muscles are engaged to support the air stream. After a discussion on support, the singer produced a completely different, full and beautiful sound. The student explained that she was imagining singing in a big concert hall and trying to sing so clearly that the people in the very back row could hear. Midori was thrilled and praised the student for such a drastic improvement.

That evening, the dancers went to meet with former first lady Imelda R. Marcos, while we (Brian and Midori) stayed behind to sit in on a mock-competition for the pianist, Matthew. He played fantastically, and we only had a few comments. We were confident that he would do well in the competition, and as it turns out, he ended up getting second place!

After Matthew was done performing, Brian taught an extra lesson to Drew, the only clarinet player at PHSA. He had a great time focusing on one of his favorite pieces for clarinet: the Debussy Premiere Rhapsody. By tweaking just a couple of things in Drew's playing, he was able to get Drew to play with much more projection and control. Drew and Matthew were just two of the extraordinarily talented students we heard during our time there, and we are excited to see where their talent takes them in the next several years! During Drew's lesson, Midori was able to spend some quality time with the other students, getting to know them outside of the classroom.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Musicians' Perspective: Week 3, Day 4

We started out today with a meeting at the University of the Philippines Los Baños to discuss the day-long workshop and concert collectively titled, "Pasalubong," which comes from the root word "salubong" which means "to welcome" or "to meet." Unfortunately, the music director was unavailable for the meeting, but it was still great to see the campus and to start planning the workshop.

We taught a goal-setting masterclass, which we thought was important for the first day, since both we both agree that setting goals and knowing what you are aiming for is usually step one in becoming better at…well pretty much anything! We discussed having long-term as well as short-term, weekly, and daily goals, and to make sure they are WRITTEN DOWN. We were able to hear one of the students, Matthew, who was preparing to compete in the Thailand Mozart International Piano Competition the following week. At that point we split up, and both taught several half-hour lessons that the students signed up for. We both had really good first days of teaching. We both agreed that the most challenging part of these two weeks was trying to teach lessons to those who played different instruments than us, since most of the students at PHSA are voice, violin, piano, or guitar players. However, this was also the part of the trip that taught us the most about our OWN musicianship.

That evening, we were able to go back to Los Baños and meet with Angel, the music director at UPLB. We discussed what we wanted to collaborate on, and learned about the UPLB "Rondalla," an ensemble of Philippine folk instruments called bandurrias, along with violins, guitars, and double basses. In the end, we hoped to learn some traditional Filipino music, and also share with them some kind of American music. At the time we thought a jazz piece might be interesting, but what we ended up doing was a lot cooler.

After our meeting, Brian had to do a furious search for internet in order to make an online phone call to the US for a job interview! He finally found a place thanks to the help of our friend Reg. Once that was out of the way, we all went to Chow King, which is basically like a Burger King that serves Chinese food. They had REALLY good Halo Halo, which literally translates to "Mix Mix," understandably so, as Halo Halo is a mixture of shaved ice, evaporated milk, and some combination of fruits, jellies, beans, and is often served with ice cream. VERY delicious and VERY refreshing. Almost every Asian country has its own version of Halo Halo. In fact, we had recently had a Malasian version in New York, but we liked the Filipino version better. We had a really great time hanging out with Angel, Reg, and the other professors from UPLB.

Musicians' Perspective: Week 3, Day 3

Today was Laguna Day! Laguna day is June 19th, the birthday of one of the Philippines' national heroes, Jose Rizal, who was born in Calamba, Laguna. To celebrate this holiday, PHSA bused all of the students to visit historically significant locations around the province. The dancers had some work to do, and also just wanted to relax a bit before we start teaching tomorrow, but we (Midori and Brian) are here for just this reason, not just to teach, but to experience Philippine culture and see as much of the country as we possibly can in the short time we are here. We also wanted to spend some time with the students we would be seeing for the next two weeks. We ended up in a van full of dancers, and we had a lot of fun. They provided the soundtrack for the trip, as an impromptu juke-box of the current pop music in the Philippines. We also taught them our favorite road trip game of finding printed words starting with each letter of the alphabet, in order. X and Z are hard, but we persevered and made it all the way through! Even Sir Robert, one of the ballet instructors, joined in. Robert also became a good friend of ours during our stay.

We started in Pila, one of the oldest settlements in the Philippines. Nothing was open yet, but we got to see some great architecture, including the Church of Pila. From there we traveled to Santa Cruz, the capital of Laguna, where there is a large memorial to Jose Rizal. Next was the San Pedro de Alcantara Parish in Pakil. It was outside of this parish that we were given small (1"x1") pieces of cloth. The person who was giving them out said that they were for good luck, and something along the lines that each year they would put a different dress on the shrine to the Virgin Mary, and cut up the old one to give out for good health and happiness. One of the things we noticed at this point during the drive was that large amounts of grain were spread out on the shoulders for the roads and in parking lots. We asked what this grain was, and were told that it was rice set out to dry.

Church of Pila
Pila Municipal Center
Rizal Monument, dedicated by the People of the Province of Laguna
"We die only once and if we do not die well, we lose a good opportunity which will never come up again... If one has to die, at least one must die in his own country, by his country, and for his country." - Joze Rizal, 1890
Outside of the San Pedro de Alcantara Parish

Front of the Parish (sorry the photos are so poorly stitched!)
Inside the parish
Gorgeous tree outside of the parish in Pakil. Not something you would see in America.
Beautiful courtyard inside the parish.
This was an area where you could write a prayer down and place it in a box. Midori and Brian added their own.
We were not sure what these were used for, but they are beautiful. If anyone wants to enlighten us, please comment!

We stopped to have lunch at a really nice Japanese garden near Lake Caliraya. The students were engaged in some kind of competitive race that we couldn't quite figure out, but it looked like a lot of fun. This got us even more excited about working with these students. The next stop was Nagcarlan, which has a fascinating underground cemetery. We thought it was interesting that some of the tombs were simply cement carved with the name of the entombed, whereas others were carved stone with gold leaf or paint and nice block lettering. Regardless, only the rich, or famous, or leaders and priests of the town were buried in the underground portion (there is an above ground portion as well). Apparently the cemetery was used from when it was created in 1845 until it was declared a national historic cemetery in 1981, and subsequently restored. During the revolution against the Spanish, some of the revolutionaries used the underground portion as a secret meeting place.

Climb the hill at the garden, and this view is your reward!

Outdoor Tombs in Nagcarlan
One of the nicer underground tombs
One of the less nice underground tombs

Midori really wanted her picture taken with this giant jackfruit! Unfortunately, we didn't get to try jackfruit the whole time we were there.
We finished our trip by visiting Liliw, home of the beautiful Church of Liliw, but also known for its sizable shoe industry. We both bought flip-flops (or in Midori's case, 6 pairs, costing her around $3).

Inside the church.
What a view!
All-in-all, we drove approximately 155 km (96 miles), and spent the whole day there. One of the best parts was the beautiful drive. We returned happy, if not a little carsick, and ready to do some teaching tomorrow!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Musicians' Perspective: Week 3, Day 2

We started the day filling out evaluations of our FIRST two weeks. These evaluations will be used to improve the project for future trips, to give us something to show to grantmakers (both past and future), and also to help write these blog posts! We met with Jay Gomez, the music coordinator, someone who we would become good friends with in the following weeks.

After lunch, we got to finally meet the music students! Since this week was basically the first week of the school year, they were all attending their first theory classes, but the theory teacher was kind enough to let us sit in to hear the freshmen perform. We already began formulating what we wanted to teach about and emphasize in our lessons and masterclasses. The students all seemed shy at first, but once we were out of the classroom waiting for the bus, they opened up and began asking us questions about ourselves, and about music in general. It was a lot of fun.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Musicians' Perspective: Week 3, Day 1 (June 17, 2012)

After a relatively smooth flight that half of us slept through, we landed in Manilla…again. We spent another two hours (mostly sleeping) in the car on our way to Mount Makiling, where the Philippine High School for the Arts is housed, and where we would be spending the remainder of our project. Mount Makiling is just outside of Los Baños. Some people have asked me "Doesn't 'baño' mean 'bathroom' in Spanish?" but the literal translation is "the bathing places," alluding to the thermal springs at the foot of Mount Makiling. Unfortunately, we were not able to visit these hot springs during our time there, but hopefully we can the next time we visit. Los Baños is in the province of Laguna, just as Catarman is in the province of Northern Samar, but more on Laguna in a future post...

Our first thought upon arriving at Mount Makiling was: Beautiful. The school is built on a mountain, there is no other way to describe it. We had a tasty fried fish lunch prepared for us by the school's staff and got settled in our rooms. Midori wanted to sleep more (she was still getting over her cold bug), so Brian went exploring with the dancers. The view is amazing here, with a view of rice paddy fields, the crater-shaped Alligator Lake, and the large Laguna de Bay just to the north. Their performance space is the Tanghalang Maria Makiling (Tanghalang is the Tagalog word for "Theater"), a unique pyramid-shaped amphitheater. We found the dance studio and came up with a really cool "gesture" dance, for fun. Unfortunately, though, by the time we were ready to walk home, it was dark and raining. Oh well, with the heat we were used to, the rain felt nice!