News & Resources
Ang Misyon’s Orchestra of the Filipino Youth
Jennifer Rivera, Partnerships and Communications Manager, Orchestra of the Filipino Youth
When the world stopped in 2020, Ang Misyon’s Orchestra of the Filipino Youth (OFY) had to adapt its programming to a hybrid format. Under the guidance of Gerard Salonga, OFY’s Music Director since 2021, the curriculum was reprioritized to ensure that each scholar receives hands-on mentorship while continuing to develop a sense of community with their peers. This has meant shifting to a mix of virtual one-on-one lessons and in-person sectionals and rehearsals.
There are now 110 scholars in the OFY program: 70 in the flagship performing arm, OFY-Main, and another 40 in the OFY-Reserves group, which consists of scholars who are still honing their skills. (We use the term “scholar” for our young musicians because each essentially receives a scholarship, which includes music lessons with professional mentors, instrument support and maintenance, workshops, masterclasses, and transportation and meal allowances.) The 110 players on OFY’s current roster come from various areas located north and south of Metro Manila—Zambales, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Quezon, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, and Cebu.
During our 2017-18 season, with cultural, situational, and financial considerations in mind, the organization pivoted to focus exclusively on a main orchestra (OFY) and a secondary one, which has evolved into OFY-Reserves. Pandemic-related challenges—namely, funding and team capacity—have kept the organization from re-expanding into the kind of satellite programs of community-based ensembles that we supported in previous years. Longer-term plans to develop a Beginners program have also been on pause—again, due to challenges posed by the pandemic.
OFY scholars study a range of pieces that challenge their skill levels, including classical, pop, and Filipino compositions. Each week, their virtual one-on-one lessons with mentors are monitored for progress and improvements. The scholars also gather at least once a week, either with their sections or as a whole orchestra, to rehearse together. Often, the pieces they learn are in preparation for major performance events, which become platforms to showcase how far they have come. To commemorate the organization’s ten-year anniversary, for instance, the OFY held a concert on October 8, entitled “OFY Ten: Celebrating Ten Years of Music,” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Under the baton of Gerard Salonga, the evening was an impactful journey of classical compositions. The OFY transported the audience with a variety of pieces, from the iconic Symphony No.5 in C Minor by Beethoven to homegrown Filipino compositions by Philippine National Artists for Music, including Colonel Antonino Buenaventura’s Mindanao Sketches, Lucio San Pedro’s Lahing Kayumanggi, and Ryan Cayabyab’s Tsismis.
Ang Misyon strives to pave career paths in music and the arts for our scholars, both as performers and as educators. For many, OFY has been an important stepping-stone in their musical journeys.
Some OFY scholars have grown to become mentors of the OFY-Reserves and eventually to serve as faculty members of Ang Misyon. Others have become regular performers for professional orchestras such as the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO), and University of the Philippines Symphony Orchestra (UPSO).
These career-oriented goals of Ang Misyon are important, but its central ambition remains: to transform lives through the power of music. This means continuing the “misyon” of helping children and youth through music education, reaching more people who can be part of OFY’s advocacy, and creating more awareness about orchestral and classical music through our performances. The young people of OFY serve as the country’s musical ambassadors—something the organization hopes to continue for years to come.