The had a unique touring opportunity this past summer when it traveled for the first time to the Philippines. As they toured, the orchestra members shared the stage with outstanding artists and brought their talents to communities on three islands, strengthening their bond with the Filipino culture.
For the first concert, the Chamber Orchestra combined with the orchestra of the University of the Philippines, a top-ranked university, at its campus in Quezon City. Before the performance, students from both orchestras rehearsed, toured the campus on traditional “jeepneys,” and ate dinner together. The UP students were great hosts to their new BYU friends. “It was really easy to connect with them because of our common interest in music,” says BYU tuba player Nolan Harris. “The best part was to make friends that play the same instruments as us and to get to know them in their setting and culture.”
The performance later that evening ended in a standing ovation. Professor Edna Marcil “Michi” Martinez, conductor of the UP Orchestra, was thrilled for the opportunity her students had to play with the Chamber Orchestra. “This performance was amazing!” says Professor Martinez. “My students loved spending the day with the BYU students. . . . They will remember this for many, many years.”
A few days later at the Meralco Theater in Pasig, the group performed a benefit concert with singer Tim Pavino for the Catholic charity Caritas Manila. Pavino, who is known for his appearance on the show The Voice of the Philippines, collaborated with the Chamber Orchestra on a recommendation from renowned Broadway performer Lea Salonga. The orchestra students were excited to perform with and learn from Pavino. “He was a good example to us of someone who is beyond the state of a student and a step up on the professional level,” says Harris.
While the orchestra rehearsed, Pavino sat in the t to watch. “I was amazed at the urgency for perfection they had,” says Pavino. He challenged the orchestra to play Filipino music, which required two students to create the part the day of the performance. And it came together beautifully. “It was a unique and remarkable experience for me,” recalls Pavino. “What I love about BYU Chamber Orchestra is the harmony, how everyone plays as if they are one mind.”
Pavino wasn’t the only star the BYU Chamber Orchestra joined forces with. The group’s last performance was with Salonga, famous for being the singing voice of Mulan and Princess Jasmine. All of the seats of the Main Theater in the
During the three-week tour, the BYU Chamber Orchestra also had the chance to visit the islands of Bohol and Cebu. At both places they joined with local music groups and familiarized themselves more with the Filipino culture and people. One of those partnerships was a surprise invitation to perform at the 2017 Gabii sa Kabilin (Night of Heritage), an annual festival in Cebu that celebrates Filipino traditions.
When the students weren’t performing, they were serving the people and learning about the great history of the Philippines. In Cebu, the Chamber Orchestra participated in a humanitarian project to build a community bathroom. The students carried heavy materials to the location and stacked hundreds of bricks to form the small bathroom complex. “It was pretty cool to provide a humbling service to the community,” says Harris.
The group also visited Corregidor Island, an important World War II site, where Americans and Filipinos fought side by side to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese. “My favorite thing to learn was the deep connection that we had with the Filipino people, how much they still remember, and how much honor and respect there is between the two countries,” says Skabelund.
The experiences of the tour enhanced the education for these students and gave them memories they will long remember. “The main thing that stuck with me no matter where we went was how everyone was so welcoming and nice,” says BYU horn player Andrea Manwaring. “People in the streets would wave to us, and we saw a level of service from all the people. It was eye-opening for how we should treat one another and to see that example of kindness.”