November 26, 2010

Musical Inspirations - November 2010

This month, three musical events inspired me so much as a drummer and musician.

First is the "Muscle Memory Workout Program", a drum workshop designed and mentored by the great Filipino session drummer Mike Alba, which is still ongoing.  I'm planning to write a blog about this experience after our graduation day about two weeks from now.

Second is The Wedding Singer.  Most of the musicians from this production, who are all part of the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra, are good friends of mine.  Thanks to Criss Buenviaje, my church bandmate & one of the guitarists in the musical, I was able to watch the hit musical and the musicians from the orchestra pit, which was a highly interesting and educational experience for me. 

JC Magsalin & Junjun Regalado at work.
The hit theater rendition of The Wedding Singer was as funny and as charming as its original movie version, and it would be great if they do a repeat run.  I had a great time watching the musical, though I had a much more enjoyable time watching the musicians do some live theater work.  My friends from MPO who were part of The Wedding Singer include drummer Junjun Regalado, bass player JC Magsalin, and guitar players Adam Cesante and Criss.  With them are three senior piano/keyboard players who are seasoned, veteran musicians.  So, The Wedding Singer Band is a group of seven highly-qualified and highly-skilled musicians.  

What really struck me about performing on musicals is how high the stress levels are, especially with drummers.  I was keenly observing Junjun, who was using a set of Roland V-Drums electronic kit for this musical (which is appropriate, since the storyline's set in the 1980's).  What he's doing throughout the show is one grand juggling act.  Besides his obvious job of playing the drums, he also needs to cue the band and the actors on some scenes, he needs to set the tempo (with the help of a metronome on his left side), and he needs to make sure that he's using the proper drum sounds/patches, which are indicated on their charts (while note-reading is another major chore!).

It's amazing how Junjun pulls it off, and it seems like there's no difficult gig a talented and experienced professional drummer like him can't handle.  I would imagine what could happen if things go wrong and a little mistake can become one domino effect of tragic proportions.  The other guys may also have their respective cues during the show, but Junjun's cues are so crucial.  In fact, there was one part of the show where Junjun almost missed a cue, which should be nerve-racking for any musician.  Yet somehow, they were able to pull it off and get back on track, which JC told me was among their on-the-spot Plan B schemes, in case a worst-case scenario happens.

Upon witnessing these fine musicians at work in the pit, I've come to realize once more the value of a very good drummer in a band or a production.  No doubt, drummers are the foundation of great bands.  And Junjun sure did one heck of a mighty fine job.  I already know that these friends of mine are quality musicians who I revere so much.  But after observing them at work at The Wedding Singer, my respect and admiration for them just grew much greater.

Third is the piano/keyboard clinic by the talented Nikko Rivera, a known prodigy on the keys who is now an ace session musician and a member of the Filipino supergroup Yosha (which also includes Mike Alba on drums, Karel Honasan on bass, and Yosha on vocals).  Nikko is an endorser of Korg musical instruments, and his clinic was organized by local Korg distributors Audiophile.  It was held at the Audiophile showroom in Robinson's Otis Mall in Paco, Manila just last Wednesday (November 24).

Nikko's clinic/program was divided in three parts.  First was the classical set, where he had a duet with a cellist, playing a Mozart piece.  Second was the jazz quartet setting, where he played with a drummer, a double bassist, and a trumpet player.  And last but not the least, he played with his band Yosha, playing a Latin jazz tune (from Michel Camilo), a fusion tune (from The Yellowjackets), and a special arrangement/medley of their original songs.  All these performances from Nikko and his crew of superstar-caliber musicians were totally awe-inspiring.

For me, a musician like Nikko Rivera is so inspiring not only because he's a natural talent, but also because it's obvious that he is passionate with music, he has dedicated himself to his craft, and he worked hard to get where he is right now.  At a relatively young age, he's already got tons of musical experiences on his profile, he's been to different places & he's already played with so many notable artists.  Now, he's an official Korg artist, and with his current musical career, there's no way to go but up and he's still got many more years to make music.  Same goes for the musicians Nikko has played with during his clinic.  Each musician is continuously studying and working hard to master their chosen instrument, and their heart and dedication are undeniable.

Which is why it's always healthy for me as a musician to go out and witness incredible musicians at work.  It's always a humbling reminder for me to work harder and to continue improving with my craft.  I salute all the fine musicians out there, and I thank you all for the inspiration.

* Photo of JC Magsalin & Junjun Regalado courtesy of Criss Buenviaje.