by Cynthia De Castro/AJPress
By his name and appearance, Californian musical conductor Robert Shroder seems to be as American as apple pie. But once you start talking to this very talented musical director, you’ll learn that he is as Pinoy as kare-kare and adobo. You can’t help but be taken aback when you first meet this very Caucasian-looking American talking in straight Tagalog –with the right Pinoy accent.
“Pinoy na Pinoy ako!” Shroder proudly says. “I was born in Kawit, Cavite and didn’t immigrate to the US [until] 1991. My father, Jerald Vincent Shroder, was with the US Military stationed at Sangley Point. That’s where he met my mom, Rosalinda Enriquez Samaniego.”
The founding conductor of the Boyle Heights Youth Symphony, Shroder is also the first Filipino-American in the symphony which was founded in 2002. A favorite symphony of the Office of the Mayor, Shroder and his team frequently perform in government social and community.
Shroder is also a freelance musician and a member of the Local 47, the American Federation of Musicians. He plays to a mixed audience for special events, but his favorite, of course, is performing for the Filipino-American community events.
Music Conductors came into vogue with the rise of Ensemble Music – with so many musicians playing together it became necessary for there to be someone to ‘lead’ them, to indicate when certain passages were to be played and by which section, and the tempo required. It is the conductor’s interpretation of the music that brings overwhelming success or the opposite to a concert.
Shroder’s masterful conducting has made him a favorite of several Filipino artists, like Joey Albert and Pilita Corrales, who know that with Shroder as musical director of their concerts, they are assured success. As a conductor, Robert has impeccably sensitive ears, as well as a rhythmic and interpretative sense. He is skillfully acquainted with every instrument of the orchestra, and is an outstanding flutist. He not only makes sure entries are made at the right time and that there is a unified beat; Robert sets the tempo, executes clear preparations and beats, listens critically and shapes the sound of the ensemble.
Shroder grew up in Cavite and studied at Emilio Aguinaldo Elementary School, Kawit High School and San Sebastian High School. He then took up Music Conducting at the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music, with Flute as his major instrument.
Shroder admits his passion and talent for music are in his genes. “My lolo, the father of my mom, Augusto Samaniego, was a member of the Philippine Constabulary Band. He was a conductor and played the saxophone under Col Walter Loving. They participated in the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in Treasure Island in San Francisco. He was also the conductor of the Magdalo Concert Band. He took me to rehearsals, fiestas, and to the different engagements of the band, so I grew up in that milieu. I inherited the conductorship of the band when he died. As conductor of the Magdalo Concert Band from 1984-1991, we performed classical music, overtures and marches during fiestas, wakes and other such community affairs,” he recalled.
Robert won the Grand Prize in the National Music Competition for Young Artists in 1982, which was sponsored by Imelda Marcos. He was hired to be the principal flutist of the Manila Symphony Orchestra, the oldest symphony orchestra in Asia. He did some solo engagements in different areas in the Philippines and was a part of the Manila Chamber Orchestra. Shroder also taught flute and chamber music in UP and did recordings for pop music and the Pinoy movie industry. He immigrated in 1991 and first stayed in San Diego where his parents lived.
Robert and wife Amy have four children, Katrina, Timothy, Vanessa and Andrew. Vanessa is a flutist like her dad while Andrew is a singer. Since migrating to the States, Robert makes sure he and his family maintain close ties with the homeland. “We go back at least every other year to the Philippines. I am always in touch with friends and associates in the Philippines,” he said.
These days, Shroder is extraordinarily excited at the prospect of seeing one of his long-cherished dream come true. “Filipino orchestra musicians here in Southern California have long dreamed of founding a Filipino symphony orchestra not only for the Filipino community but for everybody who appreciate music. Wala pang ganito so Filipino musicians have joined orchestras of other races.We learned that there are 3 Filipino orchestra members of the Korean orchestra. There are also Chinese symphony orchestras, Japanese, Jewish –but no Filipino orchestra yet. It doesn’t mean the orchestra will only have Filipino members. So long as we have a core group of Filipinos, we can get musician of other races. The problem has been the lack of a management team to run the business and take care of the administrative side. Matagal na naming gustong mag-start ng symphony group but it’s hard kung puro lang kami musicians at walang management back-up. We don’t have any lack for Filipino talents here; we can form a 55-120 man orchestra with strings -violin, cello, double bass- and wind – flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombones. Well, now, mukhang matutuloy na ang aming pangarap na ito. Thank God for Asian Journal chairman Roger Oriel who caught our vision and has enthusiastically agreed to make our dream come true by founding the first Filipino symphony orchestra in America. Watch out for that very soon!” Robert said excitedly.
Yes, the very first Filipino symphony orchestra in America is now being organized and will soon be another “pride of the Philippines”. And there’s no better musical conductor to lead it than the maestro from Cavite — Robert Shroder. (www.asianjournal.com)