For members of the Kabataang Gitarista, a group of high school students participating in the classical guitar training program of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Artist Training Division, music has been a steadying and calming influence in the time of Covid-19.
“In this time of pandemic, life is really hard right now. Because of the isolation I became lonely and sad but it all changed when I discovered myself in making music,” Kyle Adam Lorenzana, 16, says. “Because of music, I learned how to cope with my sadness and how to express my emotions through the help of music.”
Lorenzana finished Junior High School in Lakan Dula High School in Tondo, Manila. He is now studying in Philippine Women’s University Jose Abad Santos Memorial High School (PWU JASMS). He joined the KG in 2019.
For KG member and award-winning classical guitar performer, Edel Mark Bitao, 19, now a second-year college student majoring in Classical Guitar, playing music helped him cope with the stress caused by the pandemic. “It has also helped me to improve my performance in school.”
Bitao and Lorenzana are beneficiaries of the KG program which was organized by CCP’s Artist Training Division, then headed by Melissa Corazon V. Mantaring in August 2012, to promote appreciation for, and interest in, classical guitar performance among public high school students; to provide the highest level of classical guitar training free of charge through the support of generous individuals; and to develop a performing classical guitar ensemble.
Members of the KG come from students from public schools in Manila, Pasay and Parañaque.
In 2017, the KG Bicol chapter, the only one outside Metro Manila, was established under the tutelage of Angelo Inting.
Mantaring, who retired from the CCP in June 2020 but continues to helm the KG program, says: “Besides seeing the members improve from zero training to eventually perform, it’s rewarding to see them acquire not only technical skills in playing the guitar, but also self-confidence, discipline and time management, with some even getting better grades in school. Those pursuing a Music degree in college have merited scholarships so their parents don’t need to pay tuition anymore. To realize that the program has somehow helped them improve their lives is such a good feeling.”
The KG program is celebrating its ninth anniversary this 28 August, 3 p.m., with an online recital on CCP Facebook page.
For both Lorenzana and Bitao, the KG has been like a family.
“For me, the KG has a very valuable meaning to me because it helps me improve my guitar and musical skills,” says Lorenzana. “KG also gives me the opportunity to meet new people like my friends, kuyas and teachers that gives me their very best to improve myself.”
The two will be joining other members of the KG and its Bicol chapter for the KG ninth anniversary recital, the second anniversary event to be held in the time of the pandemic.
Alternative mentoring sessions
Because of lockdown restrictions, the KG members have not been able to practice together face to face. Currently, training is being done online. The students under the tutelage of KG alumna David Tiongson and Fernando Sy-Changco III and Dr. Ivar Fojas.
“Ensemble training for our high school students is not possible at the moment, we have shifted to training the members by giving them individual classical guitar lessons online. But the performing ensemble of college students was able to meet face to face a few times following health protocols to honor performance commitments,” Mantaring explains.
With the Covid-19 situation, restrictions and protocols, KG continues to provide one-on-one mentoring sessions with the members held on digital platform. Through the alternative mode, the KG members were able to continue practicing and pursuing their passion in playing the classical guitar. They were so motivated that they were able to do online recitals amid the lockdown. One was held last August 2020 for their eighth-anniversary recital and one in February 2021 for the celebration of National Arts Month.
However, the alternative online setup posed constraints on the young musicians. They experienced several challenges such as the poor quality of their mobile devices for communications during online lessons, limited internet connectivity, poor recording equipment, limitations with their existing guitars and the background noises in their limited spaces since the March lockdown. To help these young artists, Rustan Commercial Corporation, through its chairperson Zenaida Tantoco, who is also a member of the CCP Board of Trustees, donated smartphones and prepaid load cards.
KG has given performances in selected public and private schools, at the CCP, besides other venues. The group has also participated in lecture-demonstrations and workshops to promote classical guitar among the youth. Some of its members have given solo performances in their respective schools and have won in inter-school solo instrument competitions. In November 2019, the KG Trio won third prize in the Ensemble Category, and Bitao won third prize in the Solo Junior Category of the Saigon International Guitar Festival and Competition held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Currently, around 30 guitarists are being trained under the KG program.
Looking to the future in the “new normal,” Mantaring is optimistic. “We are going to open up membership this year which we were not able to do last year. It’s going to be done online this time.
Lessons will continue to be free of charge, courtesy of individual donors and sponsors. It’s our second year of celebrating our anniversary in time of Covid,” she says.
For their 28 August recital, KG offers programs featuring the works of Bach, Tarrega, Calatayud, Giuliani, Sor, Sanz, Carulli, Scarlatti, Sinesi, Cuenco and Silos.
Follow the Cultural Center of the Philippines, CCP Artist Training Division, CCP Arts Education Department and Kabataang Gitarista Facebook pages to know more about the upcoming events of Kabataang Gitarista.