THE HALLOWED halls of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) speak of culture and refinement. Red carpets cover the marble floors, paintings sprawl acrossthe walls and elaborate chandeliers hang from the ceiling.
It’s an environment suited for its president Raul Sunico, a piano virtuoso whose notable achievements include being the only pianist in the world to perform the four concertos of Sergei Rachmaninoff in one night.
Sunico served as dean of the UST Conservatory of Music for 14 years, beginning in 2002. His term came to an end earlier this year when he was replaced by composer Antonio Africa.
Despite this, Sunico vowed to continue educating and promoting aspiring Thomasian musicians.
“I’m still a faculty member in UST. My main occupation is really performing, so I want to make my performing more active,” Sunico told the Varsitarian.
Sunico graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines’ College of Music. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in statistics.
He was a scholar of former first lady Imelda Marcos, who sent him to study to the prestigious Juilliard School in New York where he finished his postgraduate studies in music.
Last March, Sunico was named “commendatore,” which translates to “commander,” of the Order of the Star of Italy by the Italian government. The distinction is given to Italian expats and foreigners who have strengthened ties between Italy and other countries.
The conferment must first be approved by Italian President Sergio Mattarella upon the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ recommendation.
“I feel honored, I feel humbled that the Italian ambassador would grant me [the title],” Sunico said.
“We have had collaborations with the Embassy of Italy for their national day. I was introduced to the ambassador and his wife, and they requested me to help them with the musical culture presentation,” he recounted.
“We had to source out of faculty and our UST (Symphony) Orchestra for the national day,” he said. “We also had other collaborations with the Italian embassy, sourcing out their musicians, conductors and singers for the opera.”
Sunico’s ties with Italy go back to when he won a silver medal at the Viotti International Piano Competition and became a finalist Busoni International Piano Competition.
Sunico said his deanship in UST and presidency at the CCP has enabled him to build connections and help other people.
Amid all his achievements, Sunico said his teaching career has been an important aspect in his life as a musician.
“It gave me the opportunity to learn more about the development of young people—not only to help them, maybe financially sometimes, but to help them grow,” Sunico said.
“The satisfaction of seeing them be successful in their own way, and hopefully, [become] people who will be replacements for us in the future, that is one of our greatest satisfactions as educators,” he said.