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Music & Dreams: 12 Questions for Ricardo Abapo Jr.

Merell Lystra L. Recta | Feature Writer

Ricardo Abapo Jr. graduated as cum laude of Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance in 2013 and worked as a part-time instructor at Silliman University College of Visual and Performing Arts for three years. He competed in National Music Competition for Young Artist (NAMCYA) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He was a recipient of a scholarship program in Paris International Piano Summer Sessions and played in various concerts in other countries such as in US Virgin Islands and France. He performed with co-NAMCYA competitor from University of the Philippines-Diliman Allan Paguirigan in the “Duo Concertante for Piano” concert last Jan. 20 at Luce Auditorium.

1. Who was your main inspiration in playing the piano and what age did you start practicing it?
I started playing the piano very late unfortunately. I saw the piano, well it was an electric Yamaha keyboard, during my freshman year in high school as I was part of the Angklung Club. Back in college, the pianists that truly inspired me (and still do!) were. . . it’s a long list so I’ll list down my top 3: Martha Argerich, Krystian Zimmerman and Marc-Andre Hamelin. These are living gods.

2. What are the struggles of playing the piano and how did you overcome those struggles?
Struggles in playing the piano can be very personal. It depends on every pianist. Each one of us have unique differences, life experiences, circumstances and even anatomy is a factor and therefore all these factors contribute to our personal struggles.

3. How will you influence a non-instrumentalist to giving the piano a try?
To spark interest for someone to play the piano is to hit the right spot of that specific person. So it would be best to play something that will make his or her eyes twinkle in delight. Kids are easier, you can just play for them a nursery rhyme in 1 finger and they’ll want to learn it.

4. If your life was a piano piece, what would it be and why?
If I’m really forced to just choose one that would encapsulate everything, it would be Chopin’s Ballade No. 4 in F minor. This piece holds a very special place in my heart and it is a dream to play this extremely difficult piece one day.

5. Aside from being a pianist, what are your other hobbies or interests?
You know I would have been a Marine Biologist if I didn’t pursue Music! I was really set to becoming a Marine Biologist during high school. During freshman year in  college, I actually approached our biology teacher Ma’am Basa and asked her if they have a Marine Biology degree and she said there was none and it was only offered as a Masters Degree.

As to hobbies, I would jokingly tell my friends then that I was a master in Badminton.

6. How did playing the piano change or help you improve as an individual?
It’s not just piano. I would say MUSIC in general. Music is highly spiritual. It connects you to your really inner core and being. You are mostly by yourself practicing. The long lonely hours of practicing in isolation studying your music just really makes you very philosophical in life. The more you study and try to understand the lines in the music you’re studying, the more it makes you think what life is about. In short, it gives you so much existential crises!

7. Do you believe that music can be the best therapy? Why and why not?
I would like to believe so that music is one of the best, if not the best, therapy there is available to mankind. What I can definitely say on a personal level is that I really feel lucky that I somehow know how to play the piano a bit and have this amazing opportunity to just let it be my outlet to pour whatever it is inside me that’s troubling me.

8. Have you ever thought of giving up being a pianist? If so, how did you overcome it?
Yes. It’s normal! Musicians have what we call the “musician’s blues” every now and then. We are very highly emotional people, prone to depression and self-esteem issues. I’m actually on a crossroad right now and really contemplating about life whether the road I’m taking is truly for me or not. But what I always think is that I have come this far already, should I really stop now?

9. Were you ever insecure of other pianists and how did you cope with this insecurity?
Oh definitely a resounding yes! Child prodigies are our monsters! Just like what I said in the previous question, we have high self-esteem issues and that comes with self-doubt and insecurities. I remember saying to myself, “I should be the first one to practice and the last one to finish practicing in the school.” I truly did practice like crazy before. For me, it’s okay to feel like that, at the end of the day, it’s all about creating beautiful music in the present capacity you can.

10. If your parents or siblings were against you on playing the piano, are you still going to pursue being a pianist?
If my siblings were against my pursuit in the piano, they cannot do anything about it. They have no power over me and my decisions when it comes to choosing my course just as I have no power over them whatever their life choices are.

I am very grateful despite having “tiger” parents. They have always been so supportive in whatever I do.

11. Which is easier to play the piano, when you’re heartbroken or you’re in love?
It’s easier to play when you’re in love! You’re all giddy, excited and motivated to play. I would even create videos of me playing and dedicate it. You just become cheesy when you’re in love, you know.

12. Who are your favorite composers and how did they shape you as a musician today?
Before I entered music school, I was crazy about Scott Joplin and his ragtime pieces! As of now, it’s so much harder to single out a favorite composer as there’s so much beautiful gems in the piano literature that truly move me deeply. As to what I am as a musician today, I am still such a work in progress. I still have a long way go to and the roads are very rocky as of the moment but as long as I see where there are roads, I’ll keep going. And if I should stumble into a roadblock, then I’ll just take a detour and create my own path. It could be much longer, much rockier and more uncertain, but if it leads to the same destination, what’s the matter? And what if it does not? Then I’ll take solace that at least I tried.

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