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Of passion, trials, and triumph: The Lasallian Youth Orchestra

The Lasallian Youth Orchestra (LYO) has performed on and off the stage for the past 10 years, bringing elegance and grace through their instruments and meticulously practiced performances.

Over the years, LYO has had a myriad of performances spanning multiple genres—from BLACKPINK’s latest single to a medley of Miss Saigon’s soundtrack. The orchestra’s flexibility and competence have enabled them to find their own space in this contemporary and often genre-defying period of entertainment.

This diverse group of musicians have come together to harmonize and share a story that can only be told through music. As they keep their rhythmic momentum flowing, there is no better time to look into the inner workings of a group of the University’s top-tier musical talents.

A harmonious convergence?

LYO, now the University’s premier musical organization under the Culture and Arts Office, was not always the united community it is today. The organization’s history traces its roots back to two different musical organizations—the Pops Orchestra and the DLSU Chamber Ensemble. The former fielded more modern and contemporary music, in hopes of appealing to a younger demographic. On the other hand, the latter was established by the late Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC in the 90s, focusing on the classical genre, mostly playing in University events and other formal celebrations.

The decision to merge the two groups was intended for the new organization to assume a singular Lasallian identity. Doing this required the two groups to reconcile differences in their respective genres and to sacrifice certain leadership positions for the sake of the organization.

Meant to unite the Lasallian musical community, the move instead caused animosity among the members, disrupting the organization’s creative process for the first few months of its existence.

…Maybe not

The orchestra’s current conductor, German De Ramos, Jr., or more fondly known as Sir Jheng, wistfully recalls the tribulations surrounding LYO when it was first established back in 2009, “Ang hirap—hindi mo mai-connect talaga, hindi mo makuha ‘yung 100 percent support ng mga member.”

(It was difficult—you couldn’t connect them, you couldn’t get the full support of any of the members.)

The resident conductor of DLSU Chamber Ensemble at the time, he was willing to accept a lower rank as assistant conductor in LYO to see the budding organization succeed. Having to deal with low morale, depleting membership counts, and a heavy air of distrust, Sir Jheng says it was during this time that he experienced the lowest point of his career in the University, “Dumating ako sa point na naawa ako sa sarili ko, naawa ako sa grupo.”

(I came to a point where I pitied myself, I pitied the group.)

While it would have been easier for him to bow to the circumstances and quit from the organization, he instead chose to stay. Because of that decision, the harmony that LYO enjoys today is largely thanks to his earnest desire to continue conducting for the organization, as well as his undying faith in the potential of its members. Since then, the orchestra has achieved many milestones—one of which was their 10th anniversary celebration back in July, entitled GRAND10SO, a concert paying tribute to LYO’s greatest musical performances.

Harmony in chemistry

The success of GRAND10SO was due, in large part, to the natural connection that the whole orchestra has, not only with their instruments, but also with their peers. Marco Lorenzo de Mesa (II, BS-ME), a violinist in the orchestra, relays how LYO encourages interaction among its members, “Mayroon kaming teambuilding; mayroon kaming residency hours…parang makiki-bonding ka sa mga ka-section mo or kahit sa ibang section para mayroon kayong connection—para kung mag-play kayo, mayroon kayong unity.”

(We have teambuilding activities; but we also have residency hours to improve our teamwork. It allows us to bond with our section as well as  with other sections to form a connection—so that when we play, we’ll have unity.)

Sir Jheng believes that chemistry among musicians trumps individual skill. An orchestra must be in harmony in order to effectively convey a piece’s message. “Mayroon kasi ‘pag pinakinggan mo, okay [iyong] tunog pero parang may kulang. Kailangan mo muna mag-create ng chemistry. ‘Yun iyong pinakamagandang bagay,” Sir Jheng explains.

(If you listen intently, the performance may seem fine, but it would still feel like it lacks something. You need to have chemistry. That’s the most important thing.)

Passion meets dedication

However, chemistry alone is not enough. The moving performances of the orchestra are only possible due to the rigorous training that each individual member diligently undergoes to master their respective instrument. Furthermore, LYO intensifies its training when preparing for events or competitions, such as the Asia Pacific Arts Festival (APAF) held in Singapore last August.

Ana Ysabel Declaro (II, AB-ISE), LYO’s current company manager, was part of the team who represented the University at APAF. Despite being rookies in an international competition, Declaro—together with the other LYO delegates—bagged gold in both solo and group categories.

Though she was filled with glee, she admits how tiring the month-long practices were, with sessions often ending around 10 pm. “It’s really tedious pero sobrang worth it naman in the end,”  Declaro expresses.

(It’s really tedious but extremely worth it in the end.)

The success of LYO is a prime example to show that fortune favors those who do not give up in pursuit of their passion. With Sir Jheng at the helm of his beloved organization, having as much fervor for the group as he did 10 years ago, LYO and its current members hope to attract new faces who share the same passion for playing music.

As Declaro expresses, “Super love ko talagang tumugtog. So, it all really boils down sa passion mo. Kasi iba rin talaga kapag ginagawa mo ang gusto mo talaga.”

(I really love playing music. So, it all really boils down to one’s passion. It makes such a huge difference if you love what you’re doing.)

If 10 years of trials and triumph are anything to go by, there is every reason to believe that LYO will continue to rise and will keep masterfully tugging at the heartstrings of its audience, overcoming whatever hardships may come their way in the years to come.

Albert Bofill

By Albert Bofill

Sabrina Joyce Go

By Sabrina Joyce Go

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