Monday, May 30, 2016

The music never stops for this couple

Soprano Stefanie Quintin and classical guitarist Anton Luis Avila have been sweethearts since their high school years in Baguio City. The way the romance began depends on who’s telling the story.

Avila said they met during the National Music Competition for Young Artists in 2005. “I was competing in the Category B Guitar Competition. She was part of her school choir for the Category B Choral Competition. It's a long story from there, but that’s how Stef first fell for me.”

Quintin protested, “I did not notice Anton back then until my friends started having a big crush on him. Having a crush on a guitarist was inevitable. So there, we became high school sweethearts and eventually became colleagues. We have been performing together since 2007.”

The two plan to make their chemistry evident on June 5 in “Acoustic Adagietto,” a dinner concert production of the Cultural Arts Events Organizer (CAEO) as part of the Baguio Summer Music Festival at Hill Station on Upper Session Road, Baguio City. Dinner starts at 6 p.m., concert at 8 p.m.

Quintin, with Avila as accompanist, will also give a free lecture-demo-cum-mini recital on June 4 on “The Miracle of the Human Voice” at 3 p.m. at Sarmiento Hall, the alumni center of the University of the Philippines Baguio.

Stefanie Quintin

Quintin has degrees in vocal pedagogy and vocal performance from the University of the Philippines. She trained with Fides Cuyugan Asensio and Rica Nepomuceno.

She said, “I was fortunate to have The Fides as my teacher. When I entered the UP College of Music in 2008, I had no idea who she was until my batchmates told me that Tita Fides is one of the pillars of classical music here in the country. How naive of me.”

She described her teacher’s teaching style: “She lets her students explore their own capacity as singers and musicians. She gave me the freedom to choose my pieces and at the same time assigned challenging ones like Darius Milhaud’s ‘Chansons de Ronsard,’ Strauss’ ‘Madchenblumen,’ most of which are rarely performed here.”

She said Asensio’s influence on her could be seen in her selection of “rarely heard pieces,” she said. “I expand my repertoire and at the same time make the audience appreciate various compositional styles. Tita Fides taught me that singing is not just about high notes. Singing should be about the message of the music, how we can transmit it to our audience. The best thing that I learned from her is to always sing with intention, never sing for attention.”

After earning his degree in applied mathematics from the Ateneo, Avila studied guitar at UP under another legend, Lester Demetillo. The young man said, “I’ve learned a lot from him both in playing the guitar and in life. The most interesting would be these: Be creative in solving technical problems; always play musically, artistically and intelligently; and at a certain point, speed is detrimental to musicality.”

Anton Luis Avila

He found a corporate job, but, he said, “The cyclical life in the corporate setting drained me. So my dream of studying music came knocking again.”

After he convinced his parents for support, he entered the UP College of Music as a student. He said, “I was relatively successful as a guitarist during my stint there. There were realities to accept. I wanted to stay but after discerning, I realized that getting a degree in music wasn’t for me. While my pursuit for a degree was put on a halt, being a musician, being a student of music never stopped.”

Asked why they chose Brazilian music, particularly bossa nova for the second part of their June 5 program, Avila said everything was Quintin’s choice, adding, “She always challenges herself technically and musically. My own curiosity for Brazilian music started in 2005 when I was 14. I was intrigued with the syncopations and harmonies of South American music. They were different from classical and even pop music. This comes from a deep love for the classical guitar repertoire, built largely on Spanish and South American music.”

He said, “Classical music is here to stay. What most consider as ‘classical music’ is different from what it actually is. When we think of classical music, we think of Bach. This is a limited perspective. That’s why people often fear classical music. The reality is some music, like those of Juan Carlos Jobim and Laurindo Almeida, are now considered standard repertoire for classical musicians. Thus, they’re here to stay.”

What makes their style of bossa different from Sitti or Astrud Gilberto is theirs is more deeply rooted in the traditions of classical music. Quintin clarified, “Mostly, what we’re going to play are composed music by Brazilian composers rather than songs played bossa nova style.”

To their Baguio counterparts, the duo has this joint message: “We hope that our humble efforts will somehow open the hearts, minds and ears of the people in Baguio to classical music.” -- Elizabeth Lolarga

For tickets and inquiries, visit Hill Station, call (074)424 2734, 0915-829-2166, or, or contact CAEO at c.p. nos. 0906-526-7241, 0920-954-0053, 0918-347-3027 or landline (074) 997-9483. The Baguio Summer Music Festival and “Acoustic Adagietto” are made possible by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Smart Telecommunications.

A shorter version of this article appeared in today's issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Bound by their love for one another and for classical music
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