‘FASO Goes Pop’ inspires Fil-Am audience, musicians alike | Global News

‘FASO Goes Pop’ inspires Fil-Am audience, musicians alike

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The Alex Theater marquee in Pasadena, California, where the Filipino American Symphony Orchestra performed. PHOTO BY CECILE OCHOA

GLENDALE, California–It never fails to excite concert audiences to see a maestro conductor, elegant in a black tuxedo or a formal, surveying his or her grand ensemble before the big opening number. This time it was a thrill to see a Filipino American musician confidently commanding his compatriots, some 60 members of the Filipino American Symphony Orchestra (FASO), on Saturday, November 14 at the Alex Theater.

At the helm, Robert Shroder, a Caucasian-looking- Kawit-Cavite-native-Tagalog-speaking philharmonic conductor. The concert was a celebration of mostly Filipino “pop” compositions with a spice of the American king of pop Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” (arranged by Vince Reyes and Louie Ramos); “Ben,” (Ramos) “ Greatest Love of All,” (Ramos) and “Age of Aquarius” (Naldy Rodriguez).


The opening act of “FASO Goes Pop” brought a pleasant surprise as Maestro Schroder raised and punctuated his baton to draw the sound of cellos, accompanied by double basses to capture Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” and then a powerful harmony of instruments: flute, French horns, trumpets, trombones, oboes, triangle, bass drum, timpani, cymbals and strings.


In an interview with TheFILAmLA Shroder remarks: “To me and I believe with a lot of people, William Tell Overture is a popular music. I’d been listening to this overture since my childhood, it was one of the most favorite tunes of my family. I thought it would be good to open a pop concert with a very popular classic tune.”

FASO photo with Bob Shroder, conductor

FASO acknowledging applause from the audience at Alex Theater. PHOTO BY CECILE OCHOA

FASO was founded in 2008, and at its helm is Shroder, born to a family with music in its genes, starting with his grandfather, Augusto Samaniego, who was a member of the world renowned Philippine Constabulary Band and was the conductor of Kawit Cavite’s Magdalo Band. “My mother was a singer, one of my sons loves to sing and perform as a hobby.

In a publicity write up, Shroder said he inherited the conductorship of the Magdalo band upon his “lolo’s” retirement and death; he started performing classical music, overtures and marches during fiestas, wakes and other community activities.”

A “pop” music celebration of Pinoy talents in America would not be complete without a salute to Filipino-Puerto Rican Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are,” which featured the mini-version of Mars: 11-year-old Nickelodeon actor Michael Keith and 10-year old Gian Paolo Jimenez, a violinist and pianist in his own right.

Ten-year old Sydney Haik did justice to the award-winning “Let it Go,” composed by EGOT winner (recipient of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) Robert “Bobby” Lopez and his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Bobby addressed the audience via telecast by proudly declaring he is “half-Filipino,” recognizing FASO as the first Filipino symphony orchestra outside of the Philippines.

The Original Pilipino Music (OPM) classics drew oohs and ahhs and awakened fond memories with a medley by popular LA singers Dennis Jardiel, Erwin Andaya and Mike Zuniga, including “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika,” “Ewan,” “Batang-bata Ka Pa,” “Ngayon at Kailanman,” and “Umagang Kay Ganda.


A crowd favorite was 14-year-old Mikaela Bautista’s rendition of “I Have Nothing” (David Foster and Linda Thompson) and “I Will Always Love You” (Dolly Parton, arranged by David Foster). Her powerful voice matched the precision of the orchestra. A holder of a 2nd degree black belt in taekwondo, this singer hopes to join “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice.”

Explaining a repertoire that features young Fil-Am talents, Shroder says, “We look towards the future; that’s why we always include to encourage and motivate the younger generation. They will be the future members, supporters and maybe some of them will run FASO when the time comes. It is very important at a young age to understand what FASO is all about, to inherit our goals and mission and to deliver quality of our performances.”

FASO paid tribute to “Ol’ Blue Eyes” in a surprise violin number by Cecile Coo-Cruz, one of the most applauded.

Assembling more than 60 members of an orchestra is no simple feat, says FASO legal adviser and board member Claire Navarro Espina. Besides tapping the music genius of participants, the director (and conductor) is also responsible for concert venues, contracts, insurance, personnel, the budget, tickets, among others.

FASO is a community endeavor that has charmed local musical artists, recruiting the likes of flutists Asuncion Ojeda and Jilly Canizares; string and bass player Tagumpay De Leon; musical arranger Dr. Louie Ramos; concert master violinist Cecilia Coo-Cruz among others. Dr. Ramos’ works have been performed by the Pasadena Symphony, Asia America Symphony Orchestra, Colburn Chamber Orchestra, Philippine Chamber singers, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and the South Shore Opera Company of Chicago.

FASO photo with Bob and Claire

Conductor Bob Shroder flanked by FASO Board members Louie Ramos and Claire Navarro Espina. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“These community leaders in the orchestra are some of the most humble and productive members of FASO,” Shroder asserts.

FASO has already set eyes on a repeat performance of “Swing the Night Away with FASO” in April of 2016. Shroder told TheFILAmLA that due to popular demand the spring musicale will be a “Big Band dance party.”

The FASO Board of Directors that oversees the symphony orchestra includes John Mina, Charina Vergara, Titus Versoza, Amirah May Limayo, Wendy Mason, Ruben Nepales, Rocio Nuyda, Asuncion Ojeda, Carmelita O’Neil Edwin Raquel, Susan Legaspi and Claire Navarro-Espina.

On his role as the maestro of this formidable organization, Shroder tells TheFILAMLA:     “Conducting is so much fun, it is like putting together a puzzle without borders, everything is round and after all the hard work during rehearsals, the performance takes form; it is like walking around a beautiful garden, you see different colors, different shapes; it is like breathing the fragrance of a beautiful music.”

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TAGS: ” “Let It Go”, Emmy, Filipino American Symphony Orchestra, Grammy, only Filipino orchestra outside Philippines, Robert ‘Bobby’ Lopez, TheFilAmLA

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