Autumn orchestrations

Photo courtesy of Guam Symphony Society
Photo courtesy of Guam Symphony Society

Autumn orchestrations

by: Takahiro Takiguchi | .
Stripes Guam | .
published: October 15, 2015

When the topic of music comes up on Guam, hard rock, jazz, and traditional Chamorro music lead the way. However, symphonic concerts are also a big part of the island’s music scene. 

For symphony music fans, autumn is the beginning of concert season. The Guam Symphony Society is kicking off its 49th season with lineup of 10 concerts, beginning with the Oct. 17-18 Kantan I Taotao Tano (The music of the people of the land) at Lotte Hotel Guam.

The concert will include Chamorro folk songs and hymns, such as Nihi Tafan Hanao Tapan Piknik (Let’s have a picnic), Pues Adios Hasta Ki (Time to say goodbye) and Atan Jesu Kristo (Look at Jesus Christ). These pieces are arrangements by Jack DeMello that were featured in the 1970 album The Music and Legends of Guam, according to Stephen Bednarzyk, Music Director and Conductor of Guam Symphony Society.

This concert also includes special stage performances by Chamorro folk dance group Inetnon Gefpago, made up of students from Southern High School and the University of Guam.

Another important concert is the New World Symphony Concert on Feb 27-28 at Lotte Hotel Guam. This concert will conducted by Juyoung Kwon from the Seoul Orchestra in Korea. During the concert, Dvorak’s New World Symphony will be performed while guitarist David Duenas plays Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez.

The Guam Symphony Society has contributed to the greater appreciation of Guam’s rich native culture and its different genres of music with concerts highlighting Chamorro music. In 1970, the symphony performed the only original Chamorro opera Likeweake, conducted by David Brian Williams, who composed the work. In 1994, the Society performed the Chamorro version of Handel’s Messiah.

The society is the oldest group playing symphonic music on Guam. Since its foundation as a non-profit organization in 1967, it has promoted classical and classic pops music to the islanders through its orchestra, chorale, along with soloists or guest musicians from around the world.

Today, the society is comprised of 42 instrument players and 25 singers under the direction of Bednarzyk.

“As the only organization of its kind in Micronesia, it is dedicated to providing opportunities for musicians and listeners to experience quality symphonic music,” Bednarzyk said. “Its performances and activities vary, from small chamber concerts at Agana Shopping Center to full-scale musicals at the U.S. Naval Station’s Orote Point Theater.”

While providing live orchestral music through collaborating with local organizations and sharing their fervor for music with citizens of all ages on the island of Guam, this all-volunteer society inspires and engages the youth in keeping classical symphony music alive on the island.

Actually, its several string players are private students. And, the Society hosts concerts and completions for local young artists repeatedly to encourage them to develop their talents.

One desire of the founders was to provide a means to develop local musical talent, according to Bednarzyk. “Today, the Society provides performance experiences for amateur and professional musicians,” he said. “Our orchestra and chorale play an important role in the musical life of the island.”

Although the Society is the oldest, it is not the only a group playing on symphonic music on Guam.

“The military has their own set of musicians and there is also the Guam Territorial Band-among others,” said Dondi Quintans, the Symphony Society’s promotions administrator.
Uniquely, the volunteer players on Guam often overlap among the music groups.

“Currently three members play for the Society and the Guam Territorial Band,” said Maximo Ronquillo, Jr., chief band master and music director of Guam Territorial Band, and also the commander and band master of the 721st Army Band.

According to Ronquillo, several Guam Territorial Band and symphony members have joined the Army band since it was activated in 2008. “I would say 25 percent of the Army band are also members of the Guam Territorial Band and Guam Symphony,” he said.

If you are interested in playing in the Society, contact Bednarzyk at:

Guam Symphony Society
Location: Hagatna, Guam
For more information, call (671) 477-1959 or email

Guam Symphony Society 49th Season Concerts Schedule

Date and time: Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.)   Sunday, Oct. 18, 2 p.m.  
Conductor: Stephen Bednarzyk
Location: Lotte Hotel Guam
Oct. 17: $65 including a Chamorro inspired dinner buffet
Oct. 18: $20 for adults, $15 for students   

Date and time: Saturday, Dec. 13, 3 p.m.
Conductor:  Stephen Bednarzyk
Location: Gov. Joseph Flores Park (Ypao Beach Amphitheater)  

Date and time: Jan. 26-28, 7 p.m.
Conductor: Stephen Bednarzyk
Location: University of Guam, Fine Arts Theater  

Date and time: Feb. 14, 2 p.m.
Conductor: Stephen Bednarzyk
Location: Lotte Hotel Guam

Date and time: Feb. 27, 6 p.m., Feb. 28, 2 p.m.
Conductor: Juyoung Kwon (guest conductor)
Location: Lotte Hotel Guam

BEETHOVEN'S CHORAL FANTASY (performed in Chammoru)
Date and time: April 9, 6 p.m., April 10, 2 p.m.
Conductor: Stephen Bednarzyk
Location: Lotte Hotel Guam

Guam Territorial Band - 'Music of life, heritage'

The Guam Territorial Band has performed at Carnegie Hall as recently as 2012, was part of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Band and performed at the Sydney Opera House in 2014, where the band won the gold award at the Australia International Music Festival, according to Maximo Ronquillo, Jr., the group’s chief band master.

“To the members of the GTB, symphonic band music is part of our life and heritage - we aim to continue the band tradition so we may pass it on to the next generation,” Ronquillo said.

Just like the Guam Symphony Society, this is also an all-volunteer community band consisting of musicians from middle school to senior citizens.  According to Ronquilo,

“The players include lawyers, university professors, business owners, construction industry, federal employees and educators,” Ronquillo said. “One of our members is a retired Navy chief musician from the Naval Academy Band.”

“Since I became the music director in 2001, my focus has been to bring music to our people,” he said. “We play a variety of Christmas performances annually at hotel lobbies, shopping malls and occasionally at the Agana cathedral.”

Guam Territorial Band
Location: George Washington High School, 298 Washington Drive, Mangilao
For more information, call 671-734-6299.


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