Hitting the right notes: A look into the lives of student-musicians

Good grades, enough sleep, and a sustainable social life; we’ve probably all seen memes with these words plastered onto the corners of a triangle, and some variation of the phrase “Welcome to college: you can only choose two” placed forebodingly at the center. For the most part, this rings true. Student life can often feel like a balancing act, with these three necessities being the hardest variables to juggle.

Despite this, some college students choose to go the extra mile and throw other major pursuits into the mix. Among these people are the members of the band Maria Cristina, namely bassist Diego Pineda (IV, BS-ENT), frontman John Uy (IV, AB-PSY), and guitarist Enzo Peña (IV, CIV).


Maria Cristina is a three-piece alternative band based in Metro Manila, whose members are currently college students at the University. They were also former football teammates back in their high school, De La Salle-Santiago Zobel School, with the band name itself being a direct nod to their alma mater located on Maria Cristina St. “Maria Cristina is essentially a common street that joins all of us together. It also pays some honor to La Salle Zobel,” John, the band’s lead vocalist, explains.

Songs from the alternative music genre serve as the trio’s main source of inspiration, acting as a baseline for writing their own music. John explains that the development of Maria Cristina’s sound has been influenced by many other artists, but is ultimately determined by the band’s own ideas and thoughts.

While their lyrics tend to be open to interpretation, John shares that these actually contain personal anecdotes resonating within the lines. As he explains, “My lyrics don’t state anything explicitly; one would have to read them and digest them to know where I am coming from.”

Harnessing such creative deviations, Maria Cristina aims to stand out from the original Pinoy music scene by developing their own unique sound—offering newfound creativity to the industry, instead of blending in with the mainstream pop direction. “I personally do not like the direction that Filipino pop music is going [toward], and we stay away from doing something that is too radio-friendly,” John discloses.

Finding the right rhythm

Trying to find common free time in their schedules for rehearsals can be a frustrating addition to the many hurdles a young band can face. Integrating recording sessions and live performances into a college student’s already-cramped schedule can prove to be a nightmare of a task, but John finds that balancing academics and being in a band can actually help “[teach] the student-musician to manage their time better” and zero in on their priorities.

Enzo also reveals how it has been relatively smooth sailing so far for Maria Cristina—”My bandmates and I are close, and [we are all] very understanding about academic responsibility.” The group agrees that, with projects to accomplish and exams to prepare for, their formal schooling remains a central part of their lives—sometimes to the point that their passion for music has to take a step back.

“I know that there are greater repercussions [that come] with letting my academics suffer [than with] letting my band duties take a back seat for a while,” Enzo explains, adding that doing gigs has yet to force him to cram his assignments.

However, when upcoming tests conflict with band schedules, Enzo further admits that, “I [sometimes delay] our rehearsals and recordings, but I always give my best for the band when I have the time to.”

John shares similar sentiments as he affirms, “Most of us can find time to do things that we love.”

The music doesn’t stop

As a growing band in an extremely competitive music industry, every opportunity that arises must be taken advantage of. Playing mostly during events hosted by the various student organizations, John stresses how thankful the band is for the people who continually support their music. “We have been fortunate to know kind people who look for us to perform,” he says, noting that majority of Maria Cristina’s audience demographic in their past shows have been fellow college students.

Staged in the University’s William Shaw Little Theater and the Calle de Manila Fair, their more recent performances in the past year have included one of their latest singles, Lost & Gone. The song also signified a major milestone for the band as their first official release on the streaming platform Spotify.

However, a career in music has not always been on the cards for the trio. All taking up courses quite distant from the music industry, there is a sense of unease regarding how they will move forward with their music—the responsibilities of a life post-graduation looming like an ominous prospect that the band must take into account and be ready for.

“We can’t live in the future, so we choose to deal with what we have in front of us right here,” John expresses, acknowledging the difficulty of planning for years ahead amid all the projects and gigs.

They may not know what the future has in store for them, but no matter how their respective careers may diverge, John maintains that it would take more than their jobs to keep them apart, assuring that, “Our friendship and music [are] here to stay.”

And at least for the moment, Maria Cristina promises that more singles are on the horizon.

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