By Rey Sunglao
“How can you convince people especially parents to let their child pursue music if there’s no money in music?” This is the exact question asked to me in one of the interviews I had a couple of years back. The 21-year-old me would have answered differently, but all the experiences after getting that music degree made a more clear answer to me. For some, the question might sound rather humiliating, however, I saw it as another chance for me to educate and to defend music as an art, an essential part of the educational system, and a profession.
One of the major factors I see for this endless myth in the music industry is the lack of education. It has always been stereotyped as more of a recreation than a profession, hence, it is viewed to have lesser importance in the educational system. We were even told that it’s not one of those professions that can make you successful because again, there is no money in it. And so for decades, this was what people believed.
I’m Rey Sunglao, a musician and a music education advocate.
The question above resonated with me for years and it has become my WHY. Back in college, I did not think of my purpose in life as a musician, but it was when I was announced as the valedictorian of the Class 2017 and blessed to have been selected as a finalist in the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines - NCR that made me realize that maybe I was born to create something for my country. I want to break that myth and let more people see that music is indeed an essential part of the educational system and a profession. This is an important mission for me to carry because I envision the Philippines to have a quality music education. After all, it is what the Filipinos deserve. We are rich in musical talents which is pretty obvious through the competitions we best on the international stage and the wonderful works our national artists have done to show Philippine music to the world. Who knows? Because of the lack of quality music education, we are missing on discovering and molding prodigies to become even great artists that we can all be proud of and that can eventually be inspirations to more people especially children of our next generation to pursue music and slowly break the myth.
Education is the only way I see to fulfill that mission of breaking the stereotype to let more people especially Filipinos realize that there is indeed life in music. I’m an advocate for Balanced Education—I view music and the arts as equal to the sciences and mathematics. I believe that music is an important part of the educational system and I want to study in the US to advance my knowledge in it.
I want to further my studies in the US because it is the perfect avenue to fulfill my advocacies as a Filipino musician; with all the quality conservatories of music in there and its multicultural environment, it will help me a lot to expand my connections and equip myself with more knowledge in music. I want to bring that hope to the U.S. and cultivate it so that when I come back to the Philippines, it’s bigger and more shareable.
The advocacy becomes closer to fulfillment as I have the opportunity to study in one of the most prestigious music schools in the world, the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, New York, where I could cultivate all of my study objectives as these and the school’s vision align with what I want to do in the future and for the Philippines.
When I got into the Eastman School of Music, I was on cloud 9, until I realized the financial obligations attached to it. However, the dream is bigger than the obstacle so I thought of different ways to raise funds for this endeavor and I’m very humbled to share with you a book I’ve recently wrote, “Whole Again.” It is influenced by my experiences as a musician and roots as a Kapampangan.
The characters and locations mentioned in the story have been part of my life growing up. It is a story about a boy who have lost his soul, energy, confidence, and motivation—a quest to finding what he have lost in himself.
Aside from the book, I worked on a repertoire that we filmed and edited for a virtual performance, “IMPOSSIBLE: A Virtual Send-Off”
IMPOSSIBLE is not just another conventional performance of me. It is a story about the collective support from people who believe in me. Because of these people, IMPOSSIBLE becomes IM POSSIBLE.
I want to study the topic involving Music and Education because these two are very close to my heart. Coming from a family that did not have much, I saw how important education is because it closes the great divide between the fortunate and underprivileged—a general equalizer. I was raised to define wealth not with how much money a family has but to view success with how many people you have touched, influenced, and inspired. Music became my string to success. From humble beginnings, it brought me to places and led me to where I am today.
Rey Sunglao is a graduate of Bachelor of Music in Music Education at St. Scholastica’s College, Manila (SSC). He was a recipient of the Sister Baptista Battig Music Scholarship, Philberth Scholarship, and Future Faces Manila Scholarship. He graduated magna cum laude and received the Sister Baptista Battig Award for his outstanding ability and achievement in Music. Rey is the very first Double bass graduate of SSC, and he holds the title of the very first male valedictorian of the institution. He was a finalist at the 2017 Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines - NCR. Rey represented the Philippines twice at the Asian Youth Orchestra, where he performed with other Asian musicians around the world. Both a teacher and a performer, he is a member of the Manila Symphony Orchestra, taught at Canadian American School, Manila, and co-founded an online learning program, @learningwithmax.
YSPACE is a platform open for young writers to contribute their worth-sharing thoughts and stories to the world. It is a space for young people and by the young people which aims to promote a strong sense of empowerment and inspiration to young Filipinos.