Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra wins big in Europe competitions

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra
The Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra at the Brahms Hall of the Musikverein

From Bratislava to Vienna, the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra tops prestigious international music competitions


The ensemble of 40 young Filipino musicians has just clinched back-to-back victories in two prestigious international competitions, putting the Philippines on the global classical music map.

Dressed in modern barong ensembles with multi-colored embroidery, the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra (MSJO) kicked off their European tour with a bang in Bratislava, Slovakia, where they swept the Bratislava International Music Festival on July 4, scoring a near-perfect 99 points. The orchestra not only secured the Gold Prize but also the coveted Grand Prix—as the sole recipient among all participating orchestras.

Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra
Outside the Musikverein a few minutes after the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra

Just three days later, the young musicians took center stage at the iconic Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna, Austria. This gilded venue, revered by classical music aficionados worldwide, witnessed the MSJO’s triumph at the 2024 Summa Cum Laude International Music Festival, considered one of the most prestigious music festivals for young musicians.

With this year’s competition of over 2,000 participants from 14 countries, the young Filipino musicians clinched First Place with Outstanding Success in the String Orchestra Category, sharing the top spot with Taiwan’s Hsing Lung String Orchestra.

The impact of their performance was so palpable that it moved one of the festival judges—Austrian conductor, jury member, and workshop facilitator Prof. Christoph Ehrenfellner. “I expected something special, but you surpassed my expectations, it was absolutely magic. I really want to congratulate you in the name of all of us at the jury. I have been a jury member in this competition for 14 years and it is very rare that my sheet for writing (comments) is blank. Just a full (perfect?) score at the end. There is nothing to say about this (performance).” 

Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra
The Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra at the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna, Austria

Their program, a blend of Western classical pieces and Filipino compositions that featured Puccini’s “Crisantemi,” Dvorak’s “Scherzo from Serenade for Strings,” and original works by Filipino composers Ernani Cuenca and Ryle Nicole Custodio was performed entirely from memory.

The orchestra’s success is the result of the rigorous youth training program of the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) Foundation, one of Asia’s oldest orchestras. The MSJO is led under the baton of the renowned conductor Jeffrey Solares, who is also the executive director of the MSO Foundation and associate conductor of Manila Symphony Orchestra.

Also leading the youth orchestra were MSO concertmaster Sara Maria Gonzales and principal cellist Arnold Josue.

Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra
MSJO team led by Mr. Judes Echauz, Group Chariman of Standard Insurance with Bratislava Music Festival Artistic Director Prof. Milan Kolena, conductor Jeffrey Solares who holds the awards

READ: Symphonic youth: How the Makati City Youth Orchestra resonates hope

The MSJO has continued their tour with performances in Vienna’s MuTh Theater, the Vienna Konzerthaus, and Prague’s Smetana Hall, before returning to the Philippines on July 13.

The entire 2024 European Tour of the MSJO was sponsored by Standard Insurance, led by its group chairman Ernesto “Judes” Echauz, who is joining the group for the entire duration of the tour.

With the MSO Foundation’s recent application to be recognized as a National Performing Arts Company, the success of the MSJO could herald a new era of regular government support for classical music in the Philippines.

All photos courtesy of the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra.

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