Internationally acclaimed singer and theater actress Lea Salonga and National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab headed the master class for students of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Conservatory of Music in two separate dates. The student participants were Musical Theater and Voice students of soprano Nenen Espina who teaches at the UST Conservatory of Music.

The master class with Lea was held on April 24, 2021 via Zoom. It was the 13th episode of a series of online discourses between renowned artists from the music and performing arts industry, both locally and internationally, and students from the Theater and Opera classes of the Conservatory of Music under the Bachelor’s degree in Music program. This series was coined as “KKK: Kwentuhan, Kantyawan, Kantahan: Isang Serye.”

The event posters above are for the April 2021 sessions of ‘Kwentuhan, Kantyawan, Kantahan’ featuring Ryan Cayabyab and Lea Salonga

A total of nine selected students from the Theater class performed their chosen Broadway pieces to showcase their talent and musicality for Lea to critique during the three-hour Masterclass.

Music theater majors, Shean Accad sang “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from “Les Miserables,” Vico Bonoan “Pure Imagination” from “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory,” Roman Bernardino “Land Of Lola” from “Kinky Boots,” Jan Montenegro “Losing My Mind” from “Follies,” Jasmine Nepomuceno “Fascinating Rhythm” from “Lady, Be Good,” Ruth Brillo “Breathe” from “In The Heights,” Aledrain De Jesus “Somewhere That’s Green” from “Suddenly Seymour,” Sherwin Anne De Leon “Maybe This Time” from “Cabaret,” and Alexa Faith Samodio “One Perfect Moment” from “Bring It On: The Musical.”

The Tony award-winning performer stressed to the students the importance of clarity in delivering the lyrics of the pieces and how delicate a performer’s role is in the art of storytelling, which is the very reason for the enduring existence of musical theater. Lea coached the students in acting, movements, and stillness while singing, which are part of the storytelling aspect in a performance.

Covering the technicalities of music, Lea reminded the students not to take for granted the theory and sight-reading lessons as these will come in handy when they are already on their respective jobs. With more than 40 years of experience as a performing artist, she advised the students on the importance of singing songs meant for their range and maintaining a healthy voice.

The Zoom video call had 167 participants, consisting of students, teachers, and alumni from the Conservatory who witnessed the master class. Also present in the virtual audience were the Dean of the UST Conservatory of Music Assoc. Prof. Antonio P. Africa, Ph.D., and UST’s Vice-Rector for Finance Rev. Fr. Roberto L. Luanzon Jr., O.P., S.Th.D., D.L.

Ideally, in a master class, there would be a live accompaniment. Given the limitations of the situation due to the pandemic, however, pre-recorded accompaniments were used instead.

The event posters above are for the April 2021 sessions of ‘Kwentuhan, Kantyawan, Kantahan’ featuring Ryan Cayabyab and Lea Salonga

‘Ryan, Ryan, Muchikahan’

Distinguished for his extraordinary compositions, contributions to the development of the Philippine music industry, and numerous awards, National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab graciously shared his time to talk and discuss his works and career to students of Music Theater and Opera classes of the UST Conservatory of Music on April 17, 2021, via the online application Zoom. His discussion was followed by an open forum.

The Master class that ran for almost four hours titled “Ryan, Ryan, Muchikahan” was the 12th episode of a series of online discourses.

The session started with a medley of his works interpreted by various artists from a 1997 performance at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). Cayabyab discussed the history and background of his works, such as “Rama Hari,” “Katy: The Musical,” “Alikabok,” “Magnificat,” “Larawan,” and his trilogy of musicals for Tanghalang Pilipino, resident drama company of the CCP, “El Filibusterismo,” “Noli Me Tangere,” and “Ilustrado.”

Himself a professor, Ryan made sure that the students were educated on the importance of the materials that accompanied the trilogy and the historical context from when it was written, stressing the importance of honoring national heroes and historical events. He explained the differences in style with each of the three musicals and also showed clips of the performances from some of the said plays.

The renowned composer also shared with the students the twists and turns of his humble beginnings before becoming the artist that he is now, from his childhood where he taught himself to read music, through his college days when he strived to help earn money for the family, and witnessing the “Palengke ng Musiko” in Raon, Manila, until today, to what he is now—a National Artist.

The Maestro reminded the students that they have to be confident, fierce, and excellent with their craft. He encouraged them to excel at what they do.

A major proponent of Original Pilipino Music or OPM, Ryan challenged the new generation in creating music, to do something that has not been done before, to be courageous and tenacious. He encouraged them to write music in their own dialects and not to force writing in English if it restricts them in relaying their message and ends up just being lost in translation, and told them of the intricacies and styles that will transcend in the music when they do so.

The Zoom video conference, exclusive to UST Conservatory students, alumni, and faculty members, consisted of 70 participants. Also present at the conference were UST Conservatory of Music Dean Antonio P. Africa, Ph.D., and artists who regularly performed Ryan’s works, such as Miguel Vera, Sweet Plantado-Tiongson, and Eladio Pamaran.

As if it were a bonus feature, Ryan also played some of his songs live on his keyboard before the session ended, with his former colleagues singing the songs as if they were in a reunion.

Source: Manila Bulletin (