Tag Archives: Music

Maestro Robert Shroder: Extraordinary Pinoy

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)


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Music to Our Ears

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – The East Coast is all-agog these days for the much-anticipated first apostolic journey of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States from April 15 to 20. The plans for the five-day visit will include a meeting with President Bush at the White House, an address at the United Nations in New York, and a stop at Ground Zero. What is especially exciting to the American public, especially the Catholics, are the major events where they can see and greet the Pope.

In New York, he will say Mass at the Cathedral of St. Patrick and at the Yankee Stadium before they tear it down. The Pope will also lead an ecumenical, inter-religious event at the John Paul II Cultural Center and address a youth rally at the St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers.

Overseeing the music for these events and conducting both Masses is a young Filipina American – Dr. Jennifer Pascual, the Director of Music of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Aside from directing music at St. Patrick’s, a center of Catholic life in America, Jennifer is also host of the popular radio program “Sounds from the Spires” on the Catholic Channel 159. She currently teaches and serves as Director of Music at the St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in Yonkers, New York.

Born in LA in 1971, Jennifer proudly said that her parents are both from Manila and met in California. Her father is a retired Navy while her mother is a retired nurse.

A musical conductor and a liturgical and concert organist, Jennifer took her Bachelor of Music Education and Bachelor of Music in Organ and Piano Performance (magna cum laude) in Jacksonville University in Florida. She then moved to New York where she took up her Master of Music in Piano Performance at Mannes College of Music and her Doctor of Musical Arts in Organ Performance with a minor in Church Music at the Eastman School of Music.

“I have always enjoyed music as a child and growing up,” Jennifer said. she explained that She added that specializing in church music was a natural inclination. “I really didn’t want to do anything else. To have just a solo performing career is just that – solo – kind of lonely. I like working with people.”

Her prestigious position as the Director of Music at St.Patrick’s is something that Jennifer credits to luck.

“I happened to be conducting a concert at St. Joseph’s Seminary in NY and His Eminence, Edward Cardinal Egan was present. It was at a time that the Cathedral was in transition and looking for a new director of music. I simply happened to be in the right place at the right time,” she said.

From teaching piano classes and music at various schools to playing the organ in different Catholic churches, Jennifer has risen in her profession to become the Director of Music at the St. Frances de Chantal Catholic Church, the Associate Director of Music Ministries at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred and the Conductor of the New York Archdiocesan Festival Chorale before she was offered her present position.

“It is a lot of work” she admitted. “ And being in such a highly visible place, there are a lot of politics involved and a lot of people to keep happy. However, the flip side is that the people are wonderful, and we get to make beautiful music in one of the grandest cathedrals in the world. Everyone comes to New York, so I see people that I know from all over the world.”

Jennifer’s other job is hosting a radio program. “I never did it before and all of a sudden I got asked to do it,” she exclaims. “It’s once a week for an hour. We talk about music and how it ties in with faith, religion, get to know church musicians, that kind of thing,” she added.

Very few Filipinos. There is, however, an annual Filipino Mass and that is very well attended with almost a full cathedral,” she said.

“I really love the [Philippines], the food, the people. I wish the Philippines was not so far away so I could visit more often. I’ve only been there twice. I went last 2004 as the featured organist at the Las Piñas (my mother’s hometown) Bamboo Organ Festival,” she said.

When not busy at work, Jennifer usually just catches up with her sleep or she travels and enjoys fine dining. As to future plans, she admits she just wants to stay and direct music in St. Patrick’s.

“I hope to be here for a very long time! I just would like to continue to make great music not only in the Cathedral but throughout the Archdiocese of New York and hope that we continue to be a model for the rest of the United States,” she said.

Next time you visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, pause for a while, listen to the great music, and thank God for this Filipina giving such wonderful music to our ears.


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