29 Dec The Lourdes College Marinela Neri Velez String Program: The Launching Pad for CDO’s Future Symphony Orchestra
Kagay-anons love instrumental music but aren’t that much exposed to symphony or philharmonic orchestras that play classical music since Cagayan de Oro City doesn’t have its own orchestra of the sort.
The nearest thing we have is the 35-member string instrument ensemble from Lourdes College known as the Marinela Neri Velez String Program.
This string ensemble is composed of young musician-students from Lourdes College playing various violins, violas, cellos, and double bass has recently been making waves with their music in the city.
How it all started
Marinela Neri Velez is a Kagay-anon, philanthropist, and music enthusiast. For many years she envisioned that Cagayan de Oro should eventually have its own symphony orchestra and this was the legacy she wanted to leave to Kagay-anons. She also knew that a project of this magnitude had to start with the string section, so one day she requested Ms. Ana Maria Velez Dela Fuente from Lourdes College to have lunch with her and have a full discussion on this undertaking. Ms. Velez agreed that she would generously be funding the scholarship program for 10 years at a cost of Php10 million.
The Marinela Neri Velez String Program from Lourdes College was thus officially launched in December 4, 2013 at the Lourdes College Auditorium.
The launching coincided with the December Rhapsody concert with the Manila Symphony Orchestra on December 2013, which Ms. Marinela Neri Velez produced.
The program then officially started in the summer of 2014 to give time in the search for the scholar-musicians.
The Coordinator and Conductor
The string program is led and conducted by their coordinator, Ms. Ana Maria Velez Dela Fuente. Ms. Dela Fuente was born in Cotabato but grew up as a native Kagay-anon. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and Piano at the St. Scholastica College in Manila. Her first music teaching job was with the Collegio San Agustin in Makati for 3 years. Ms. Dela Fuente then taught music at the St. Scholastica College for 3 years as well. After teaching in San Agustin and St. Scholastica, she went back to Cagayan de Oro and taught at Corpus Christi School for 10 years. Later on, she moved to Lourdes College and taught Music there as well.
A String Ensemble is not a Symphony Orchestra
For those not familiar with a symphony or philharmonic orchestra, this is a large musical instrument ensemble that plays instrumental or classical music and contains at least five instrument sections composed of the woodwinds (piccolo, flutes, clarinets, bassoons, saxophones), brass (horns, trumpets, trombones, tubas), percussions (timpani, drums, cymbals, wood and bells, tambourine), keyboards (piano, organ, harp), and the most famous section, the strings (violins, violas, cellos, double bass).
A full symphony orchestra may have between 50 and 70 musicians, though some like the London Philharmonic Orchestra that regularly records all the Star Wars movie soundtracks have more than 100 musicians. On the other hand, a single sectioned ensemble like a string ensemble, like the one from Lourdes College, may have only from 30 to 40 musicians. Also, single sectioned ensembles have no age limit so you will find children, teens, and adults playing together. Full symphony orchestras are usually composed of adults.
The String Scholarship Program
The Marinela Neri Velez String Program at Lourdes College is a 10-year scholarship program that works towards the eventual development of a symphony orchestra for Cagayan de Oro City in partnership with the Manila Symphony Orchestra. The program includes artist-teachers from the said Manila-based orchestra as well as local music teachers in order to teach playing the violin, viola, cello, and double bass. The said artist-teachers under their executive director, Mr. Jeffrey Solares, are mostly graduates of Bachelor’s degrees in various music majors in their specific instruments from St. Scholastica College and other leading Music Conservatory schools in Manila and abroad.
The Lourdes College string program is presently composed of student-scholars aged 9 years old up to fourth year college level. All the scholars are hand-picked from public or private schools by the Lourdes College music department after a rigorous interview and evaluation that included going around the schools of the applicants and talking with their respective principals.
Surprisingly, not all scholars who were selected have a musical instrument background, but were very much willing to learn first-hand. Although there are more than 70 students in the scholarship program, only 35 have been earmarked to perform as the string ensemble. The others are being trained in the other orchestra sections such as wind and percussions.
The 10-year program will cost Php10 million over the said duration and is hopefully meant to eventually give Kagay-anons their own complete symphony orchestra so the people can appreciate classical music even more.
The Marinela Neri Velez String Program’s most recent performance was a 4-day affair on December 21-24 when it performed at the lobby of the Limketkai Luxe Hotel.
To the delight of one 87-year old patron who was celebrating her birthday, the string ensemble was requested to play a surprise birthday song in one of the function rooms.
What a Christmas treat she got on her 87th birthday.
Last July 4, 2014, the string ensemble performed at the 25th anniversary of the Gold Star Daily at the Pearlmont Inn ballroom. The ensemble also performs regularly at the Lourdes College Faculty Concert alongside the Lourdes College Chorale Group.
Naturally, the 10-year program hopes to culminate in eventually forming a 50 or 70-member symphony orchestra, but, according the Ms. Dela Fuente, this is perhaps only the beginning. To maintain and continue the college’s music program will mean more sponsorships are needed for the scholars and this also means more exposure for the program.
The more performances the ensemble can perform the more exposed Kagay-anons will be to this form of music. One generous sponsor it has already won over is the Limketkai Luxe Hotel through its general manager, Mr. Jerome Dela Fuente (a distant cousin of Ms. Ana) as they will be facilitating more performances and maybe a full concert beginning next year.
Lourdes College also hopes that the school can develop future winners for NAMCYA – National Music Competitions for Young Artists – since it is always Metro Manila that dominates these competitions.
If you are a Kagay-anon who enjoys the classical music of Mozart, Beethoven, and other classical composers, or who loves the instrumental versions of popular tunes, then perhaps in the future you might want to catch the performances of the Marinela Neri Velez String Program from Lourdes College. There just seems to be something enchanting in listening to a live stringed instrument performance.