Note: Pops Stories are a series of blogs, depicting my life and times with the DLSU Pops Orchestra.
In this blog entry, I remember my audition with the DLSU Concert Band, which will be renamed the DLSU Pops Orchestra the following year. I wrote this blog on Saturday April 18.
Dio's Pops Stories #2: My Audition
1996... Entering college was an exciting time for me. Frankly, it’s not because I was finally in college and it will mean a lot to my future. For me, college was a time to expose myself, enjoy life to the fullest, and have the chance to grab greater opportunities – musical opportunities, particularly. Since I began playing drums during my first year in high school, I had the dream of becoming a professional musician. Well, it was more of a fantasy. Before, I thought I would be another normal guy who will eventually have a decent job, while music can be something I can do on the side. Anyway, by the time I entered college in 1996, I was a rock drummer who aspired to become a better musician (up to this day, I still want to get better), and I was hoping to find opportunities to play more drums. I wanted to make a mark and establish myself as a musician.
I remember how excited I was during my freshman orientation. Back in the day, the frosh orientation is a one-day affair, with its standard operating procedure of meeting our blockmates, touring the campus, and learning about all things La Salle, like the alma mater song, cheers, and some history and culture (though these weren’t so new to me, since I’m a La Salle Greenhills alumnus). The highlight of that afternoon was the presentation of the performing arts groups, under the DLSU Cultural Arts Office. The show was held at the William Shaw Little Theater (we didn’t have the Yuchengco Theater and the Sports Complex yet). I remember the performance of the DLSU Concert Band (yes, this was ’96, it wasn’t called Pops yet; naabutan ko yon!). The first piece the Band played was David Foster’s instrumental classic, “Winter Games”. I remember seeing Sir Eli for the first time. The drummer was a girl (Ella Monserrate, the first-ever female Band/Pops drummer), the bass player (Dohndi Santos) was wearing a Dream Theater shirt, and the keyboardist (Junjun Del Rosario) was really really good. And coming from an exclusive all-boys' school, for me it was intriguing to see a big band with a good number of female members! Next song, if I remember it right, was Swing Out Sister’s “Am I The Same Girl”, which was sung by former CAO Coordinator Ms. Mary Lyn Driz (I remember back when the old members jokingly teased Sir Eli a lot, linking him to Ms. Lyn hehe!). That was also the first time I saw and heard that great drummer named Junjun Regalado. The Band sounded so beautiful. And that moment, I thought of joining. It may sound corny or cliché, but it felt like destiny. And so, the second week of school was audition week. I searched for the Concert Band’s audition booth, and I quickly signed up.
My ECE blockmate, guitarist Mark Casquero was also interested in joining the Band. That midweek, one afternoon after classes (around 5pm, if I remember it right), we decided to visit the Band Room to inquire further about what to prepare for and expect at the audition. Sir Eli was the only person present inside the Band Room that time. That was the first time I entered the Band Room and talked to Sir Eli. For me, visiting the Bandroom was a chance for me to check out the place and the gear. I saw a nice red Premier XPK drumkit with Zildjian cymbals, set up on one corner of the rehearsal area. The kit looked new that time, and I thought "Ah, nice kit! I'll be alright at the audition."
Audition day was Saturday at the Band Room, which was hidden somewhere at one corner of the Taft campus, beside the school’s ROTC office, near the then-new STRC Building. Back then, there weren’t any preliminary and final auditions and all those special screening and steps. All auditions and interviews were held at the audition day itself (except for non-performing applicants for the PR Committee and the Production Staff). I arrived at the Band Room sometime around 2pm. I went alone, having no companions or upperclassmen contacts and referrals. I didn't know where my blockmate Mark was. I know sophomore sax player Vic Nepomuceno from LSGH Band, but I didn’t know he was a Band member until later. And I knew LSGH batchmate & sax player Oliver Santillan was auditioning too, but we had different schedules (sorry Oliver, I just revealed your real ID number haha!). It was just me, my sticks, and for some reason, I brought along with me my mountable LP Cyclops Tambourine (what was I thinking back then haha!). I remember waiting for my turn at the Band Room’s office area. Also waiting were the La Salle Zobel boys - I recall seeing Patrick Mateo, Ryan Herrera, and Mikmik Sy Qui; and aspiring vocalist, sophomore Jolon Pabiton, who was wearing fatigues fresh from his ROTC session. I even remember what I was wearing that day – a red tie-dyed Batman shirt, jeans, and black Palladium sneakers. And I was attempting to grow my hair long.
The rehearsal room’s glass windows were covered, so that we won’t be able to see what’s happening inside the audition area. Whenever the door opened, we tried to peek in, but there was a huge rolling blackboard which served as a divider. Though I was feeling confident that time, I knew it will be tough the moment they call my name and I begin playing. I was also aware that I wasn’t the only drummer trying out, and I knew this one guy who auditioned, and I heard he’s quite a good drummer. And I also heard that they only needed one new drummer that year. While waiting, we can hear people from the audition area, screaming, applauding, laughing, and reacting to whatever the aspiring applicant played or answered during the interview. Though it was a sign for me that the audition wasn’t so uptight, it still felt scary.
Finally, it was my turn. It was sometime around 3pm. I entered the rehearsal room/audition area. There were plenty of people! The rhythm section area was the stage. In front was a long table, and I assumed that the persons seated there with papers, pens, and lists were the officers. On one side near the window, Sir Eli was seated on his high chair. The rest of the members were scattered around the room. And some rhythm section players were on standby, waiting to play along with Band hopefuls. I remember, it was alumnus Neil Mison on bass and Junjun Del Rosario on keyboard. I smiled the whole time, hoping that it would bring a nice first impression haha! I took a moment to make adjustments on the Band's Premier drumkit. The kit was pretty much new back then. The chrome hardware and the Zildjian A Series cymbals were shiny. When I was all set, Sir Eli told me to play a solo…
I played Temple Of The Dog’s “Pushing Forward Back”. I chose that song because its time signature is in 7, and I thought that it can show them that I can play odd meters. Plus, I think the song is groovy even if it’s in 7. Most of them weren’t aware of what song I was playing along to in my head, but they knew I was playing in 7. They made me stop halfway through, and then Sir Eli told me to jam with the rhythm section. I can’t remember what we played, but we jammed for awhile, and it was fun. Until Sir Eli told us to stop, then he handed me this sheet of music, which I thought will seal my fate in this audition haha! It was “Santorini”, by Greek new age musician Yanni, which was in 7. I never heard of Yanni that time, so deep inside I was like, "Oh no..." haha! They must have thought of giving me that piece because I played an odd-time song earlier. I was used to reading transcriptions from Modern Drummer magazine and the ones I got used to at the LSGH Band, so I had a bit of difficulty reading Sir Eli’s piece, and I was a slow sight reader (even up to this day). At first, I didn’t quite get it. But when Junjun began playing the opening keyboard parts, things became clearer for me. I learned later on that Sir Eli’s drum notations are like patterns/guides, and only the hi-hats were supposed to be played during the opening part of Santorini. Though I was able to nail the accents, I played the song with kick and snare, forming a groove. Some of the guys thought I can’t read haha!
After playing a few bars, they interviewed me and bombarded me with several questions, from standard audition questions like “What’s your reason for joining the Band?”, “Do your parents know that you’re auditioning?”, and various commitment-related questions, to funny inquiries like "Umiinom ka ba?", and “May girlfriend ka na ba?” I think I was sweating more during the interview than on my performance! Those 10 minutes of audition felt longer. After all that, they told me to wait for the results, which will be posted at the Band Room on Monday, 5pm.
Monday afternoon, after my class, I went to the Band Room, together with my blockmate Mark. We ran up the stairs going to the Band Room door, where the final results were posted. Mark made it.
And yes, I made it too.