Guitar is the first musical instrument I learned to play. My dad had a Yamaha acoustic guitar which was older than my two younger brothers. If my brain serves me right, my kuya (older brother) and I started learning guitar when I was in Grade 5.
The first song dad taught us was “God is so good”. It only had 3 chords: D, A, G. Then we learned “Leaving on a Jetplane” with the chords: G, C, D.
My dad told stories of how he was a part of the Rondalla Group (Rondalla is like a Philippine version of an orchestra) during his elementary years and how he knew how to play Banduria (the violin counterpart). His influence was so obvious that when I entered high school and learned that there’s a Rondalla group in that school, I also auditioned and became part of the team.
Then, I also started learning banduria.. and eventually learned all the instruments.
I started learning piano through a piece of illustration board with keyboard markings in it. I got the idea from the other group of musicians in our school – the vocal arts. This was a public high school so there’s no way to provide a real piano/keyboard to each of a class of 40 or more. Then I would also learn from the keyboard of our Rondalla conductor.
Dad also knew how to play the piano but we didn’t have one at home. On one summer, he managed to borrow one, brought it home, and taught me several piano pieces that I still play even to this day. Two of those are: “Somewhere in Time” and “What Child is This”.
Singing and Choir
My Dad’s vocal range is so high that he can easily sing Bruno Mar’s songs – not that he’s into Bruno’s songs, but I remember him tried one of Bruno’s high pitched songs and he sang it with ease. In a choir’s term, he’s a Tenor 1. Well, unfortunately, no one among my siblings inherited that super high a vocal range. I’m the total opposite — I sing Bass 2.
Both mom and dad were members of a church choir (UCCP) even before they started dating. I’m sure that’s one reason my dad fell for my mom. Dad used to tell stories about the “Ideal Wife” checklist he had. 😀
Mom’s a soprano – in case you wonder.
My brothers and I grew up listening to them singing duets.
When I got to college, I auditioned and got accepted in the university’s official choir group (University of Mindanao Chorale). I remembered mom and dad helped me a lot when I was just starting. Learning to sing in the choir was tough, especially that we had a tough choir director/conductor. Have you seen the movie “Whiplash”? Remember the bald conductor? Ours was like him. Multiplied by 3 (just kidding). That was seriously a great training ground though. When we recall about those days, we’d always have a big laugh about it. Right, Sir Eleguen?
I eventually became the assistant conductor and in-house musical arranger during my time there. The full scholarship which came with being a member of the choir was such a big help in getting my college degree.
Dad was a great teacher. He pushed us to be confident. When we started learning guitar, I would never forget that he always tells us to sing instead of just playing the accompaniment. And then he would tell me to sing louder, to “stop singing to yourself” — because I used to be so shy and it’s only I who can hear my voice.
Back in the days when he was still a pastor, he would bring me and my kuya to his fellowship meetings and we would alternately play the guitar as he leads the praise and worship.
I remembered back in high school when he would send us to our church’s youth fellowship every Tuesday night. I’m okay with the music training but there’s a worship service after the training which I didn’t like (yay!). My kuya and I, many times, would make excuses not to attend the Tuesday sessions, “Dad, I have some projects to finish” or “I have an exam tomorrow”. I don’t know if he was aware of that 😀
The 4 J’s
Oh right.. we do have a boy band. We’re all J’s by the way (Jason, James, Josiah, Joseph). Neither one of us pursued a serious musical career but the love for music continues to run in our veins.
The Next Generation
Thank you dad (and mom too) for the gift of music!