For the fourth straight year, musicians from the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra took top prizes at the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA).
MSJO members Maria Monica Bacus, (violin) and Lance Morrison Tulagan (viola) were both named first-prize winners in their respective senior strings categories during the competition streamed live on Facebook and YouTube. Bacus was also awarded Best Interpretation of the Contest Piece.
Apart from Bacus and Tulagan, other MSJO members who won first prize in the prestigious annual contest are Jeanne Rafaella Marquez, junior strings (2018), Jodeline Michaela Pecson, senior strings (2019), Emmanuel John Villarin, junior strings (2020). The 2016 winner, Mishael Romano, is also from MSJO.
Bacus started playing the violin when she was 11 years old. She graduated cum laude with a degree in Bachelor of Music Major in Violin Performance from the University of Santo Tomas. She is also a member of the Manila Symphony Orchestra and is a faculty member of the MSO Music Academy. She is part of the 2021 Asian Youth Orchestra (AYO) 30th Anniversary Concert Tour in Europe and Asia.
For the 2021 contest, she played the Glazunov Violin Concerto, and prepared for it under her teacher Diomedes Saraza Jr., through online lessons because of the pandemic.
“Years of training and experience taught me that in every opportunity, there is always a learning experience and things to improve on. This has helped me focus on growth rather than the results. As Sir Dio always tells me, winning is just a bonus,” she said.
Tulagan, 19, is a BS Mathematics freshman at De La Salle University. He started playing the violin at age 9 and shifted to the viola when he was 14. For NAMCYA, he played the Forsyth Concerto in G minor, Bach Suite no. 5 in C minor, Clarke Sonata, Filipino piece “Hatinggabi” by Molina, Two Pieces for viola and piano by Frank Bridge, and “Solo ma non solo” by Jeffrey Ching. His biggest challenge was managing his time between the demands of online school and practicing.
Tulagan was a student of Professor Ivan Saraza, the MSO’s viola principal who passed on in August this year.
“Teacher Ivan significantly contributed to my musical growth,” Tulagan said. “He noticed every detail in my playing and cared so much about my improvement. He believed in me so much and he asked me to join several other competitions.”
Before Saraza passed away, he asked his brother Dio to continue helping Tulagan prepare for the NAMCYA.
“I am extremely proud of Lance and Monica for winning first place in NAMCYA,” said Dio. “Watching them brought a lot of memories when my brother and I joined decades ago. Both my brother and I won it and we’re happy that our students did as well now. We’re even prouder not just because they won first place but I’ve seen the effort and hard work they put in to play the best version of themselves in each round of the competition.”
Professor Jeffrey Solares, conductor and executive director of the MSJO, says the pandemic has brought new challenges to teaching and learning music.
“It forced them to take all their lessons online,” he said.
The MSJO also produced virtual performances where each member submitted recordings that were in turn edited to approximate the effect of playing together.
Solares led the youth orchestra to win second place in 2017 and first place in 2018 at the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival held at the Musikverein in Vienna, Austria. MSJO has also played at various venues in Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, South Korea, and Myanmar.
“We are proud that our training programs for the members of the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra (MSJO) continues to bear fruits of excellence and we are excited to witness and support their further growth and development as future leaders in our country’s music scene.”
MSJO is supported by Standard Insurance and its group chairman, Ernesto “Judes” Echauz.