Beyond A Pair of Sticks

My Story with a Pair of Sticks

It all started when I was in second year high school. There was just a tremendous desire to hold a pair of sticks and learn how to hit the drums properly. When he saw me holding the sticks, my father said, “That instrument is only for guys, and you are a girl.” In other words, I have to act “ladylike.”

I took his piece of advice into consideration. But I also grew up in a school environment where students breathe artistic expression. I wanted it, and so I pursued it.

I enrolled in the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Music Extension Program. My two semesters there went by swiftly. Nearing the end of my third year in high school, some of my batchmates approached me and mentioned that their drummer quit and asked me if would I like to fill in that slot. I thought it was wonderfully cool to give it a shot!

And so on one Christmas vacation, I visited for the first time a music studio called Blueberry. I eventually discovered that musicians from my university would often go to that place to hone their musical skills.

Frequenting the studio meant having the privilege to play with virtuosos in rock n’ roll, blues and jazz. Pards, of course, is the top of that list. This name was a term of endearment we used for the owner, who also became our mentor. He had been playing music since his teenage years, and this had become his profession as well. His life has been a good example of people who stick it out to their passions. He is a man who found the meaning of life through music.

One fine day we were asked if we wanted to play in the 2004 UP Fair. The Fair is one of the highlights of the academic school year for many of the students at the UP Diliman campus. Even neighboring universities participated.

We were all extremely thrilled. The thought of playing the music we like in the grounds of our beloved alma mater was truly a thought that never crossed our jovial minds. A unique kind of excitement also filled our hearts as some claimed that we were the “first highschoolers” to play in the Fair. It was a historical moment for us. We were given two numbers to play, and we chose Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and The Beatles’ rendition of “Twist and Shout.”

Then, the most awaited night came. We were there as early as six in the evening. After waiting at the backstage for almost six hours, we were finally told that we would play at around twelve midnight. This simply meant that we would be included in the line-up together with famous bands that usually start to come out around midnight.

And so it was true. Famous bands like Silent Sanctuary, Sugarfree and Parokya ni Edgar rocked the stage. Then, it was our turn. Five high school students came up on the stage and gave it their all. We could see our batchmates right there below the stage shrieking and shouting, almost losing their voices.

Although our performance did not turn out well (we were so nervous), the whole experience of playing the drums which led to that momentous night taught me many things.


A String of Lessons

As I conversed with my bandmates, Pards and his family in between practices, I began to see things from a broader perspective. Life is so rich that there are many things to ponder and talk about. I realized that young people like me cannot get stuck with petty concerns.

I discovered the dignity that lies in music. It can stir good sentiments, but it cannot be equated with a mere ephemeral feeling. It invites the person to transcend the material dimension of doing music because music is more than pragmatics and pleasure. It cannot be created only to escape from problems or wallow insensitivities.

And so whoever engages in music lives in harmony with humanity. After all, good music – even without lyrics – always speaks. Its humanizing power is a compelling force that touches one’s core. Music enhances the connection to oneself and to the rest of humankind.

Good music speaks of the reality that men and women are rational beings, able to think and attain natural truths about this world and the life beyond. Eventually, the musician can transcend the material world and eventually step into the divine realm. This, I think, could happen simply because any good that is found in the world is but a reflection of Goodness Himself, the Supreme Being.

The person then discovers that the music he or she so loves emanates from experiencing goodness and love. Pope Benedict XVI once said, “When men are seized by love, a new dimension of being opens in them, a new grandeur and breadth of reality, and it also drives one to express oneself in a new way. Poetry, singing, and music in general stem from this being struck, by this opening of oneself to a new dimension of life.”

This encounter with Love, knowingly or unknowingly, is what propels a person to music. And this experience could be perhaps one of the reasons why the German philosopher, Josef Pieper, could say, “Only the Lover Sings”.

After the attraction to music is its “aftershock”. I call it “aftershock” because it is the endearing effect of music on one’s whole life. Again, another encounter with Love. In a way, the entire musical journey has become cyclical in motion. Love propels one to music, and music makes one in love again. And so, in this way, it can be said that the measure of one’s music is his or her capacity to love and be loved.

Given this journey of mine in the world of music, I could say that music is one of the best teachers for me. Being a musician may not be my primary professional vocation, but fundamental things about life and life beyond were taught to me by a pair of sticks.

Written by Maria Pilar Lorenzo, a WYA Certified Member and a former intern at the WYA Asia Pacific office. This abbreviated article is an excerpt from a recently launched book of the author about the crossroads where God and the youth can meet.