Thursday, September 11, 2014
Gabby, the piano guy
"To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable." - Beethoven
One can truly learn from Gabby's relaxed attitude towards committing mistakes during either a rehearsal or a performance. He says, "My approach is to just move on. Don't get stuck in it. Yung pagkakamali, palatandaan na tao ka pa rin."
He is on his fifth year as a piano major at the University of the Philippines College of Music with just a few general education units to finish so he can graduate next year.
He may be called an accidental pianist. At age four or five, he liked to tinker with a battery-operated toy piano while his grandmother watched over him. His mother was out working as a nurse and his father was employed in a private firm. Lola Ester noticed that he could seek out with his fingers the melodies of a pop song like "Love Is All that Matters" or "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music.
One time he told his folks that he wanted to take piano lessons. They discouraged him, saying, "Baka paluin ng teacher ang kamay mo pag nagkamali ka." Like any concerned parent, his mother's dream for him was to become a nurse or to join an allied medical profession to assure him of a stable future.
His elders acceded to his wish when the family moved from Makati to Pasig where they found him a piano teacher, Hannah Valdez-Sariego. She would submit his name for piano competitions. Gabby recalls, "I wasn't serious yet with my playing--bara-bara lang kung tumugtog."
By the time he was at the Philippine High School for the Arts in Makiling, Laguna, he was playing "because I liked it, but I still couldn't see if I could live on it, if it would be my life. Eventually, I became serious about it because of the competitive spirit among the music majors there. When I joined and started winning competitions, I realized okey, kaya ko pala. Parte na ito ng buhay ko."
His parents came around to seeing that their Gabby could really make it as a professional musician when he performed as a soloist during the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra's season finale last year. He saw his dream taking off and unfolding when he became part of a concert season, his name prominent on the posters and tarps of the Cultural Center. They told him, "Kung saan ka masaya." More than that, Gabby says, they've realized that he has something important to contribute to the Philippine music scene.
From the most recent masterclass he attended under Cecile Licad, he and the other young pianists were encouraged to experiment more in their playing. She told them that it wasn't just a matter of mastery of notes; interpretation was just or more important.
He remembers Ms. Abrogar-Quinto stressing the same thing. The late teacher once advised him that when he's joining competitions wherein he has to play the same piece as the others, he must come across as "super convincing as if I owned the piece."- Elizabeth Lolarga