Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Blogger's Note: I'd like to start this blog with a multitude of THANK YOU'S. Thank you to Ate Toni Manalo-Santiago, super cousin, unofficial concert tour manager, and Carlo's indefatigable mom who moved heaven and earth to bring the Manila family to the Maroon 5 concert. Gold tickets, no less! And Meet and Greet! Thank you to totally Fab Maroon 5 (James, Adam, Matt, Jesse, Mickey), and Shawn The Bringer -of-Good-News-and-Tickets, for the greatest music and sincerest meet and greet EVER. Thank you to my co-organizer and partner-in-crime, cousin Ivan. Thank you to Ate Ging, Caryl, Mikko, Mykka, Ella, Pam, and the Grandmas-who-did-not-wear-earplugs, Auntie Charito and Auntie Lina, for sharing with me that amazing experience, and of course to dear angel Carlo, who was such a good friend and student of the band, for  extending this friendship to his Manila aunts and uncles. Rest in Peace, but keep Rockin' on!
   photo by Toni Santiago

                                                              photo courtesy of Ivan Antonio

Teachers must watch rock concerts more often. That's right. ROCK concerts. Enough of the sentimental and the unabashed cover songs. There are tons of teachable moments in a rock concert, heaps of lesson ideas from rock songs. I remember teaching conditionals using Eric Clapton's and Babyface's "Change the World", metaphors quoting U2's "One", poetic imagery using Sting's "Fields of Gold", and irony, quoting, what else--Alanis Morisette's "Ironic". Nothing catches a student's wandering attention more than references to music, and when I taught in the late 90's, it was my trademark. Bands were performing The Odyssey rock opera, and the literary club I managed organized, and performed in a concert called "Preludes and Nocturnes", our nod to Neil Gaiman.

From classroom to concert venue: As discerning educators, we must choose the artist, and what the artist stands for. I for one, am partial to simplicity--just the interplay of voice and instruments. I have no great love for acrobatic entrances and glaucoma-inducing eye makeup. What does that have to do with the music?  In my lifetime thus far, I've had the thrill of watching two of the purest artists--Pearl Jam in 1995, and Maroon 5 in 2011, and those massive gigs, more than a decade apart, made me realize the power of this genre, and see pure genius in action:

Sound Checks: As I stood for hours outside the Folk Arts Theatre where Pearl Jam was slated to perform, the sound check for "Even Flow" and "Alive" was keeping the congenial crowd entertained, and it lasted for more than an hour. I realize now that these live concert acts were no joke to set up. It's not just the instruments, but the amplifiers, the speakers, the pedals, and all that tangle of cords, cables and equipment must be in total sync, harmony and balance with one another. This is Physics application like no other, specifically the science of acoustics. Since it's impossible to set up a concert in every Science classroom, teachers can simulate one by asking students to "sound check" various objects. They can even test a class' decibel level when they scream, shout and cheer (though this is best carried out in the gym or field to avoid disturbing the adjoining classes). I remember Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine raising his arms through several choruses, enjoining the crowd to sing along, or to scream louder. From my seat about twenty rows from the stage, I sensed his dissatisfaction, like he's saying, "C'mon. Manila, you can do better than that"! Of course, he didn't have that problem with the M5 anthems "This Love" and "Sunday Morning". The band enjoyed hearing the sing-along as much as the audience enjoyed the band's enjoyment.
                                                                photo by Millette Espiritu

"Musicality of the Filipinos":  I personally enjoyed "Stutter", and the first salvo, "Misery". Even if I didn't know all the lyrics to the other numbers, the catchy tempo and Adam's persuasive onstage charm made me catch on pretty quick. I'm sure the thousands in attendance, the "perfect pitch" Filipinos, were in that same vibe.Adam constantly touted us Filipinos for our excellent musical tone, and even playfully compared us to American audiences. I'm sure he has firsthand experience, hearing Carlo play guitar like a pro, with guitarist James Valentine coaching him on. To prove his point, for "She Will Be Loved", Adam divided the audience into the left and right choirs, asking the left choir to sing "And she will be loved" repeatedly, while the right choir was asked to sing the more wordy verse (Glad I was on the left!). Adam listened like a doting choir instructor as left and right harmonized--loudly, but in perfect pitch! I can't believe that other nationalities are actually incapable of doing that, but if Maroon 5 says so, then I must concur. In my family alone, I can proudly say that we can all carry a tune--from Sinatra to Evanescence, we can bring the house (our little houses, that is:)) down. It comes naturally to us Filipinos, possibly because our language, and all its dialects,  are so melodic to begin with. The "lambing" of Bisaya, the lilting tones of Kapampangan--it's a foregone conclusion that when Filipinos chatter away, it sounds like they're singing. This is an asset that we must nurture in our schools. Sadly, Music education in the Philippines does not only suffer from time and budget cutbacks, it also suffers from a dearth of music teachers. Music, along with the Visual Arts, must be given more attention and emphasis in the curriculum, not just to train future singers and musicians, but also to develop the soul and to stimulate the brain towards creativity. Musical training, in fact, is said to develop mathematical skills and verbal ability.Thanks, Maroon 5, for affirming that the Filipino's got talent.
                                                                photo by Millette Espiritu
Respect and Friendship: It all began with Carlo's friendship with his hero and mentor James. But it could have ended there. Through the years, Ate Toni would send us photos and videos of their jam sessions, of the band dubbing him Maroon 5-and-a-half, with the most poignant image of all--James by Carlo's hospital bedside, still in rocker mode. I know of no other recording artist who does this at all. it's beyond kindness. It's mind-boggling. More than friendship, I believe it's respect for another human being, for a fellow artist, for a boy stricken with cancer but still bursting with so much energy and love for the world. That night, during meet and greet, we all felt it, and not just from the band but from Assistant Tour Manager Shawn, who welcomed us because we were friends of friends who also happened to be big fans. As I shook each Maroon's hand, I could only utter the word, "Hello", starstruck as I was (though I think I managed to call James by name...), but I had a million 'thank yous' that went into each handshake--Thank you for meeting with us, thank you for the free tickets, thank you for giving Carlo the best moments of his life.

And of course, thank you for your music. A new school year is about to begin, and I'm stoked to be in the classroom again.
                                                                 photo by Ivan Antonio

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