Like classroom recitations, music recitals can be nerve-racking.
At our College of Music in UP Diliman, a recital for music
majors is usually a program with just one performer, with several musical pieces or numbers. You can imagine the preparations for such recitals. I once sat next to the parent of one student doing her recital in piano, and he told me how his daughter spent hours of practice each day, sometimes late into the night.
Most of the recitals I attend are more modest, organized by the college’s extension program, where our music faculty offer classes for individual students for all kinds of instruments — piano, violin and guitar being the most popular — as well as dance and voice.
My children are enrolled in these classes, which mean a lot of recitals to attend. Last weekend, I attended two separate recitals to watch three kids (two of my own, plus my son’s friend from an urban poor community).
Although I would be ecstatic if they chose that path, I have no illusions about my kids becoming professional musicians. I enrolled them in music for other reasons.
First, I just think it’s an important part of literacy to be familiar with music, or “musics.” We go to all kinds of concerts and performances with a rich variety of instruments and cultural origins (local, Asian, western), hoping they will appreciate what the world has to offer by way of feasts of senses different from those offered by television and tablets. We’re not limited to classical music; the kids get all kinds, from jazz to rock, from gamelan ensembles to symphony orchestras.
A second reason, more specific to music lessons, is maximizing that amazing product of human evolution: the brain-and-hand connection. A recent article in the New York Times featured surgeons who worried about younger physicians lacking manual dexterity. One fretted about the need to acquire a “language of touch” that comes with childhood exposure to manual activities that are repeated and involve fine-tuning: home economics, painting… and music. Alas, electronic gadgets narrow the range of manual operations to swiping and tapping.
A third reason for music classes relates specifically with the recitals. It’s good for kids in recitals to see other nervous kids (and occasional adults), making them better appreciate the fruits of their practicing for the recitals. Recitals are not about winning, but about doing your best.
I’m happy just having the recitals as family events, from home practice to the preparations on the day of the recital itself, with everyone running around (oh no, Kuya’s pants don’t fit anymore). The venues are always packed with proud parents (quite a number of fathers included, I’m pleased to report) and siblings and assorted kin and kith. You feel the thrill in the air, sometimes someone even shouting out “Bravo!”, you did very well.
After the recitals last week, at home, my kids began to play different pieces that somehow blended in happy chaos. That was when I remembered my ninong, the late Judge Francisco de la Rosa, who impressed on my parents the value of having children do music classes. I loved visiting his home, which was filled with musical instruments (and books). All of his children were adept at some instrument, or even instruments.
So many other thoughts raced through my mind as I listened to the recital performances. Watching my son’s friend doing his first recital, on the guitar, I thought of how great it would be if more kids from poorer families could learn musical instruments. We need more projects like the Bolipata brothers’ Cuerdas Cuadros (strings and frames) Community Arts Program in San Antonio, Zambales, which trains rural youth as scholars in music and the visual arts to increase their chances of getting into the Philippine High School for the Arts and colleges offering music degrees.
But even for families that can afford it, music classes are not that popular in the Philippines, and I’m afraid good music will lose out, overtaken by karaoke.
Recitals are not just about music. This last weekend was the first recital for one daughter, who had chosen voice lessons. She began her recital, hardly audible, then slid into the song, still soft but resonating with strength. Bravo, I told her after the recital, thinking more of courage and determination. You see, she came to me a blue baby with serious congenital heart problems that required two open heart surgeries to mend.
I imagine she’ll continue to sing out, louder as she becomes more confident, her voice soaring with a strong and loving heart.
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