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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Oldest Orchestra In Asia Continues Sharing Music With The World

Despite the pandemic, the show goes on for these dedicated musicians.

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George Buid
George Buidhttp://www.georgebuid.com/
An independent photojournalist of the Philippines capturing life as it passes by. He contributes to different news outlet and press publications.

PHILIPPINES. Manila. Before the first note, the audience is filled with anticipation. The atmosphere is tense as the conductor brings down his baton. From the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Dvorak, to The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, the Manila Symphony Orchestra brings music to life.

The Manila Symphony Orchestra performing in Ateneo.
Photo by George Buid ©2017

The oldest orchestra in Asia. The Manila Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1926. As the oldest orchestra in Asia, it has an intriguing history and was a symbol of resistance in World War II.

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Performances outside the country. The Manila Symphony Orchestra has performed in many parts of the Philippines and abroad. The musicians have entertained in China, South Korea, and Japan. They also joined the Resonance Gala Concert, a collaboration of the Japan Foundation and Japanese Embassy in July 2019, which brought musicians together from across Asia to perform as an ensemble.

Photo courtesy of Manila Symphony Orchestra

What are they doing now? Under normal circumstances, the Manila Symphony Orchestra performs in packed concert halls. Now, its events are on hold because of the pandemic. Transcontinental Times spoke with Jeffery Solares, Executive Director of the Manila Symphony Orchestra Foundation. Solares said, “We have some pending projects [but] we cannot execute them because of social distancing protocols.” However, this hasn´t stopped the orchestra from continuing to make music together. They are currently using technology to perform virtual concerts. You can watch them on their YouTube Channel or follow their Facebook page for updates.

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The orchestra has been through a lot in the past ninety-four years. It´s a non-profit and non-government artistic group, and because of that, finances are always a challenge.

Three cellos on an empty stage.
Photo by George Buid ©2017

Working through their challenges. The orchestra paid salaries in April 2020 to take care of its musicians. Solares told Transcontinental Times, “We have applied for some aid from the government, but it was small and slow.” The symphony orchestra applied for grants because it needs more funding. It applied to various arts programs in Germany and Japan. “A few individuals have donated,” Solares added.

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Sharing their knowledge is a gift. The symphony orchestra’s members continue to give lessons online through the Manila Symphony Orchestra Music Academy because they need to create an income. Sara Maria Gonzales, one of the musician instructors, said, “The school is sustaining the office and other necessary expenses to maintain the rent.”

Sara Maria Gonzales (right) teaches a student to play the violin.
Photo by George Buid ©2017

Beyond making rent, the orchestra members continue to provide lessons to young musicians because they believe that musical education and quality of life are a symphony in their own right.

“We believe that music has the power to touch, to transform, to develop a person’s sensibilities, awaken his consciousness and desire for beauty, goodness, and truth, and engage persons and communities to create a better society.” – MSO Music Academy.

They will continue sharing their talents because of their commitment to this mission. They welcome students of all ages to their academy. Aspiring musicians can inquire here for more information.


  • George Buid

    An independent photojournalist of the Philippines capturing life as it passes by. He contributes to different news outlet and press publications.

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