Madz Trainee. That’s how we call aspiring Madz singers who are seated behind the magic semi-circle during rehearsals. That is how you get to really know if the Madz is really your calling or not.

Exactly ten years ago around this month, I auditioned for the Madz. I knew right there that this is what I want to do for the next few precious years of my life!

As trainees, we had to attend all rehearsals at UP. We had to be ready to sing for engagements if we are called to. My first engagement was the conducting recital of the choirmaster himself, who, at that time, was enrolled at the university taking a masters degree. That was also the time I started to bring home tons and tons of music sheets, choral music sheets that is.

As trainees, members will challenge your knowledge of the repertoire, especially the standard Madz repertoire for masses and concerts. We welcomed the challenge and learned our music before rehearsal starts. We studied our pieces together. Eventually, members bid farewell to their seats, so trainees prepare themselves to get a spot inside the semicircle.

After a few months I was rehearsing inside the semicircle. But not too quick, I am still considered a trainee. In Madz standards, you are called officially a member when you return to the country from an international tour. The operative word is return, meaning you completed the tour.

My first trip abroad was in 2004. That time, the Madz is going back to the international competition scene. The trainee batch were quite many, six of us–three sopranos, two tenors, and one bass. We were a good bunch, being a group of soloists as well, and that we really bonded together during that trip.

It was also the time that I learned to play guitar, forcibly, but nevertheless, happily! The one who plays the guitar is on a tour with another ensemble and could only join us during the second half of the tour. Since no one had the guts to do so, Sir Mark asked if I can play the guitar accompaniment of some songs in the repertoire. I accepted the challenge and studied the pieces by heart. Luckily, my then boyfriend (now husband and forever choirboy!) knew already or have heard of the pieces so he was able to teach and lend his guitar to me!

Then the Madz members knew I had perfect pitch, so they were always asking me for a reference pitch when we study pieces on our own. This reached Sir Mark, so he asked me to give the pitches for a concert in Germany, taking this burden off his shoulders. And I am proud to have done my task well! Sometimes I would use a pitch fork, but when I forget to bring, I hum the pitch by memory. It was so cool, and I can’t believe I had the ability and that I can put it to good use!

It was all part of the traineeship, and it was all worth it. In 2004, after we returned from our tour, I became a full fledged member of the Madz. And I stayed for four more years. They were some of the best years of my life!

To my co-Madz trainees batch 2004: Liaa, Rhina, Edwin, Nilo, and Enrico, thank you for the bond that we have created then as batchmates. For some of us, it was our first time to be away from our families, and we only had each other, along with the Madz members and Sir Mark, if we feel homesick. It was a long choral journey for us and I’m happy to have been part of this journey with you.

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