FPH, Pinoy pianist headline music mission for underprivileged kids

ANG Misyon, a program that seeks to develop the untapped musical talent of some of the country’s unprivileged children, expanded its reach to 450 members last year from the 50 it started with in 2012.

The program was formed by Federico Lopez, chairman of First Philippine Holdings Corp. (FPH); Eugenio Lopez III, chairman of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.; and Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz, a world-renowned Filipino pianist, in a bid to harness the musical talents of underprivileged children and provide them a venue to showcase their skills.

“It’s more than just the music; it is really about the change you can bring to society, starting with the youth. You can make a lot of youth believe in themselves and go on to become so much better and fulfill their potential. I think it has more than 600 members already,” Frederico Lopez said.

Ang Misyon is a nonstock, nonprofit corporation, which employs the program called Sistema for the Filipino Youth (SFY), to produce and oversee the Orchestra of the Filipino Youth (OFY). Members of the OFY are poor, but musically talented children from all over the country who pass a rigorous screening process to qualify as SFY scholars.

From one orchestra with 50 musicians from Manila in 2012, OFY now counts another 13 music centers outside Manila with at least 450 members. As SFY scholars, the children receive free music education, as well as financial support for rehearsals, transportation, meals, uniforms and free use of instruments. They automatically earn a slot in the OFY.

“Most of the young musicians come from indigent families earning less than $100 [roughly P4,900] per month. Their parents are farmers, construction workers, vendors, backyard mechanics, or tricycle drivers. Regular jobs and resources for schooling are scarce. So, the children’s chances of realizing their dreams despite their musical talent are slim,” Cruz said.

Cruz added many Filipinos avoid a career in music, especially the classical or orchestral variety, since they think the career move cannot support their needs or feed their families. Poor Filipino children also give up dreams of pursuing a musical career due to lack of money to pursue a formal education in music.

“The initial idea was not to create another conservatory. The initial idea we are still pursuing is that we are using music education or classical music as an engine for social change. We want to expose to the rest of the country what the true talent of the Filipino is,” Cruz said.

The SFY draws its inspiration from a related program in Venezuela, called El Sistema, which uses music for the protection of children through training, rehabilitation and prevention of criminal behavior.

The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra offers career opportunities for the best OFY talents, after finishing the program. The FPH supports the movement using music as a tool for social change, which can help keep kids away from drugs, gang wars and crime.

Broadway actor and businessman Eric Booth, had co-authored a book that chronicles the development of El Sistema movements across the globe, entitled Playing for Their Lives. The book was launched in the Philippines on February 16, at the Lopez Museum and Library in Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

“It grows much better when there is a bigger community supporting it,” Booth said.

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