They were my weekly Saturday morning date.
We had a good “date place” too, amid paintings here and there, and behind us a replica of the infamous “Parisian Life” by Juan Luna, no less.
In my short but sweet stint at the country’s premiere cultural institution, I had the privilege to have handled and coordinated several projects. Aside from the recently concluded international choral competition, the other one dearest to me is the Kabataang Gitarista Program.
We started the program on the second half of 2012, where we gathered public high school students from Manila and Pasay public high schools. From about 70 applicants, we went down to a final total number of 12, which had their recital to celebrate their first year last August 24 at the CCP Tanghalang Huseng Batute.
They were mentored by no less than the country’s best, Maestro Jose Valdez, master guitarist and arranger. I have never seen a master as humble and as kind as he is.
The group has gone a very long way, thanks to their dedication and the support of the program’s sponsor, Guitar Friends, a group of guitar enthusiasts, who are funding the said program, that is why the students are having their guitar lessons for free. Likewise, they get to use the GSIS Museum as their rehearsal venue for their weekly lessons. Meanwhile, the CCP Artist Training Division, on its part, is the overall coordinator of the program, from coordination with the Department of Education to implementation of the program and looking at possible performance opportunities.
Literally, I was “ate,” or big sister to these students. I was the one tasked to remind them about rehearsals, coordinate their performance schedules, transportation, things to bring, etc. I also got to know the students better through their parents, who patiently waits for the students every week.
I have seen their musical growth in the program in that one year, which makes me their proud “ate.” A few months before the recital, they were assigned solo and ensemble pieces to prepare them for the repertoire. I doubt if I could fare well as they did, as some of them played challenging pieces like Bach’s “Bouree” and Tarrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra, in less than six months! This is what precisely what Sir Joe wants the guitarists to achieve, to “excel in solo guitar playing so that they can perform on their own even without the ensemble.”
I remember the starting weeks of the program, when the students had to be educated about classical guitar. Some brought steel-stringed guitars with them, so we could not accommodate them. Slowly, the numbers dwindled and only those with nylon guitars and the dedication to attend early Saturday morning lessons continued with the program.
These students have different stories. Their guitars were in various conditions, too. But they persevered, until such time that their guitars were given an upgrade through generous sponsors.
Two of the students are now in college, taking up music. Both of them were influenced to take up music by being in the Kabataang Gitarista Program, saying that it made a huge impact in deciding which course to pursue.
Another batch of students will be mentored by another guitar teacher. The first batch, meanwhile, will continue their sessions with Sir Joe. I really hope the new batch would be twice as many as the first, or even more, and that they would have guitars in good condition and playable quality.
To the first batch, congratulations for making it this far! I do hope you will still continue to play and carry on the rehearsal discipline that Sir Joe has been instilling on you.
To Sir Joe, thank you for being an inspiration of humility to me. May God bless you as you continue to play for His audiences and train more guitarists through the gift of teaching He bestowed on you. Not many people can excel on both!