Filipino youth orchestra strikes gold anew in Vienna music fest

Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

Posted at Jun 28 2021 12:14 PM

Filipino youth orchestra strikes gold anew in Vienna music fest 1
MSJO performing in South Korea. Photo courtesy of MSJO

The winning streak of the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra (MSJO) continues after it struck gold in the youth orchestra category B of the Vienna-based World Youth Festival, which transpired from June 12 to 26.

The festival -- which went online because of the pandemic -- had some 140 orchestras from 33 countries participating with video entries.

MSJO, under Jeffrey Solares, submitted a video of their 2019 performance at the Youngsan Art Hall in Seoul, Korea playing three movements from Dvorak's Serenade in E.

"The technical level of the MSJO, the spirit, the precision of the ensemble is all exemplary. I can’t imagine a better performance," noted jury member Prof. Arthur Fagen, music director of Atlanta Opera. 

The silver prize for youth category B went to Pui Ching Middle School Macao String Orchestra, while the bronze prize went to Cricket Chamber Orchestra from Canada and Joven Promusica Orchestra from Spain.

Solares acknowledged the big help of Standard Insurance for their continued support as principal sponsor as well as all the parents, teachers, and families who supported the orchestra's mission of discovering and nurturing the Filipino youth and providing them an opportunity to shine on the world stage.

MSJO earlier won first prize in the 2018 Summa Cum Laude International Music Festival, also in Vienna.

Solares said that by providing the best environment for young musicians to hone their talents, you also get the best from them. 

"We provide a good environment for serious study and at the same time encourage deep respect and friendship among the students. We don't play favorites even if some talents stand out from the rest," he said.

Another key to good performance is by providing young musicians exposures to different activities during the year. 

"They get busy with recitals, music camps, chamber music and masterclasses, among others. We remain positive that in spite of the pandemic, we can continue making music in different ways and continue to make people happy with our music through various online platforms," Solares added. 

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MSJO conductor Jeffrey Solares. Photo courtesy of MSJO

The conductor also said the pursuit of excellence is its own main motivator among aspiring young artists. 

"We are thankful that there are a few festivals and activities that we can still continue to participate in and show the world the kind of talents we have. We don't encourage musicians who are only after the trappings of fame and ego tripping," Solares said. 

Since its establishment in 2014, MSJO has had public performances at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Museong Pambata, Ayala Museum, Corporate Center Auditorium Insular Life Tower, Filinvest Alabang, and the open-air Auditorium at Rizal Park, among others.

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The late president Noynoy Aquino with MSJO in 2014. Photo courtesy of MSJO

The World Youth Festival, established in 2013, aims to provide a platform for all kinds of orchestras and ensembles to perform, learn, compete, communicate, and establish deep friendship with fellow musicians regardless of age, origin, religion, and cultural backgrounds.

Among those who participated from 140 countries were symphonic orchestras, chamber music orchestras, folk music orchestras, wood and brass bands, marching bands, percussion ensembles, jazz bands, and ensembles of various types.

The festival is organized annually in Vienna each year, supported by the Austrian federal government authorities, the city government of Vienna, the provincial government of Burgenland, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Boys Choir, Haydn Foundation, and Liszt Cultural Center, among others. 

Among the members of the jury are Fagen, Prof. Helmut Zehetner, conductor Neil Varon, and Mark Pogolski, musical director of Hochschule fur Musik and Theater in Munich.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")

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