PROVING that music is a universal language, Korean conductor Jae-joon Lee conducted the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the latter’s concert series, Tour de Force Perfomances with 8 Maestros, last November 12, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Also performing with the Philippine orchestra was Korean bel canto singer Yun-kyoung Yi and the University’s very own Noel Azcona, assistant music director of the UST Singers, and Randy Gilongo, a professor at the Conservatory of Music Voice Department.

Lee also conducts voice claases at the Conservatory of Music where he is a visiting professor.

Lee learned of the Pontifical University through Professor Fidel Calalang, conductor of the UST Singers.

“[Calalang] is one of my best friends,” Lee said. “I tried to invite the UST Singers, I think five years ago, to perform in my country.”

Lee was then introduced to Dean Raul Sunico by Calalang, and from then on, he became very enthusiastic about working here in UST, said Azcona.

Despite being highly esteemed in his field, the Maestro is not stuck-up. But music is no laughing matter to him.

Azcona told the Varsitarian that according to students taught by Lee, the Maestro was “very strict.”

“He is very kind, but very strict.” Gilongo said.

Though not coming from a family of musicians, the conductor was already passionate about music since childhood. At seven, he could already play the piano and the trumpet. In fifth grade, he was already conducting.

During his teenage years, his family went to the United States and base themselves there.

High schools top nat’l achievement test

He studied choral conducting at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and Orchestral and Opera Conducting at the Novosibirsk National Music Conservatory in Russia. He received his master’s degree in Music from Keimyung University in Daegu, South Korea, majoring in instrumental music.

His father initially disapproved of Lee’s dream, but this never daunted the conductor. Luckily, his mother fully supported him.

“She invested a lot of money for my studies,” said Lee.

At the World Choir Olympics in 2002, Lee came to know of the UST Singers and became friends with Calalang. According to Azcona, “his relationship with UST began with his relationship with the UST Singers.”

Eventually, he became interested about UST and its Consevatory of Music. This led him to holding classes in UST. Last year, he conducted the Strauss’ opera, Dei Fledermaus, produced by UST and the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

“I try to keep coming here to teach young Filipino musicians,” said Lee. Maria Joanna Angela D. Cruz


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