A Stronger Community
Welcome to the College of Music, and welcome to the Abelardo Hall Auditorium, or as we fondly call it, the AHA.
The college recently celebrated our centennial – we were founded in 1916 but the original site of what was then the Conservatory of Music was in Quiapo, Manila. Then it moved a couple more times until finally settling at the old Villamor Hall in Padre Faura which is now theSupreme Court. I tell my students, maybe it’s time to occupy the building again so we can drive away all the discordant noises that have taken over since we left. Villamor Hall would be totally destroyed in the last days of the Japanese Occupation, and in 1948, UP moved to its new campus here in Diliman. But it wasn’t until 1963 that the Abelardo Hall was constructed through funds coming from USAID.
So the UP College of Music is turning 102 this year, while the Abelardo Hall is going on 55. And look around – you can tell, right? You can see all the battle scars that we try to patch up as best as we could. We purposely decided to place you here on stage so you may see the hall from the vantage point of the performers. This is how it feels like to be under the bright lights. Right here is where our faculty and students battle stage fright to bare their souls to the crowd out there – sometimes a big crowd, in many cases, quite sparse.
Our house is old, our roof leaks and our stage creaks, but this is our home. This is where we come day in day out to shape and nurture the aspirations and dreams of our students. I like to summarize what we do in the college in three points: imagining, embodying and engaging. We strive first, to help our students imagine their music, for without imagination, there would be no creativity and without creativity, there is no art, just as without ideation, there can be no knowledge. There is talk that artificial intelligence will soon be better than humans at almost all skills that we know. Perhaps that’s inevitable – but can machines ever imagine? Will robots ever have the ability to dream? For this reason, we believe our work here is irreplaceable and now, more than ever, relevant to humanity.
Next, we labor with our students so they can embody their vision. Like athletes, we accompany them through rigorous training until their musical vision is embedded into their very being. The body, after all, mediates idea and expression. And beauty is borne of struggle and pain. One may see it as developing muscle memory, yes perhaps, but probably even more than that. When the Balinese train their dancers, the master manipulates the student’s body until, as they say, “the dance enters the body”. Dance and music artistry then is not a matter of knowing something or being able to do something, but simply “being.” The college of music is in the business of helping young artists “become”.
Finally, we oblige our students to go out and engage the world. The embodiment of knowledge and ability is not just the way of being artists, but the artist’s way of being in the world. Our ideas and expression after all are situated in time and space. Whom and what is our music for, and where do we locate it in the story of our generation, our nation, our planet? Imagine, embody, engage: imagine your music, embody your vision, engage the world – this is the core of our mission as a community of artists and scholars. Ultimately, our goal is to transform the world through sounds, movement and ideas – a lofty task which we can only hope to tackle if our community is strong enough.
We asked you to sit here among us so you will intimately feel the pulse of our music, the vibrations of our instruments, the thud of our feet. Maybe you’ll catch the artists grimace or smirk on a missed note, perhaps you’ll hear them gasp for air or signal a cue – things that you would not normally notice when seated back there in the audience. But you are right here onstage because we are inviting you to be part of our community as our friends. Why? Because we understand that we simply cannot do it alone. We need you so our community can be stronger. With you, we can attempt to transform the world.
Thank you for coming. Your presence is a precious gift.
LaVerne David C. de la Peña, PhD
College of Music
University of the Philippines