Guam’s music scene often may be associated island and pop tunes, however, symphony concerts also are a vital part of its musical landscape. And autumn is when concert season kicks off.
Guam Symphony Society is ready to open the new season Oct. 18 with a premiere concert of Disney classics followed by a lineup of 9 more performances from different genres for everyone to enjoy, says Dondi Quintans, the society’s promotions administrator.
“Disney music touches everyone’s hearts and we’ve had numerous requests for them, especially children,” says Quintans. “It would be a great opportunity for the children of Guam to be exposed to live music and hopefully get them interested in playing or singing professionally one day.”
Other lineup highlights include a holiday seaside concert, young artists’ award performances and a chamber music finale in May.
Guam Symphony Society is the oldest symphony group on island. Since its foundation as a non-profit organization in 1967, it has brought classical and classic pop music to islanders with its symphony orchestra, chorale groups and soloists as well as guest musicians from around the world.
Today, the society is comprised of 47 instrument players and 25 singers under the direction of Stephen Bednarzyk. Its performances and activities vary, from small chamber concerts at Agana Shopping Center to full-scale musicals at the U.S. Naval Station Orote Point Theater.
“As the only organization of its kind in Micronesia, it is dedicated to providing opportunities for musicians and listeners to experience quality symphonic music,” says Quintans.
The society, he adds, is a 100 percent volunteer organization whose members have dedicated their time and talent to share their passion for music with Guamanians of all ages. While collaborating with local organizations to provide live orchestral music, Guam Symphony Society also aims to engage the island’s youth and inspire them to keep classical symphony music alive on their island.
“One desire of the founders was to provide a means to develop local musical talent,” says Quintans.
Several of the society’s string players are actually music students. And it regularly hosts concerts and competitions for young local artists to encourage them to develop their talents.
The society has also made efforts to promote Guam’s native culture with concerts on Chamorro music works. In 1970, it performed the first and only original Chamorro opera “Likeweake,” composed and conducted by David Brian Williams. In 1994, it performed a Chamorro version of Handel’s “Messiah.”
Guam Symphony Society, however, is not the only group performing symphony music on Guam.
“The military has their own set of musicians, and there is also the Guam Territorial Band-among others,” Quintans say.
In fact, volunteer players often perform in more than one of these groups.
“Currently there are three members that overlap between the society and the Guam Territorial Band,” says Maximo Ronquillo Jr., Guam Territorial Band’s chief band master and music director of. He is also 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.
This tightknit community of local volunteer musicians ensure there is, and will continue to be, plenty of vibrant and dynamic symphonic sounds – like Guam Symphony Society’s upcoming 10 performances – for all to enjoy on island. Such events offer a different and perhaps unforgettable impression of how Guam sounds. Volunteers are always welcome – and they are welcome to any vacant seats that may be available.
“Many Guamanians love and appreciate classical music,” Quintans says. “We have so many talented musicians, singers and loyal music lovers who come out to our events to volunteer or watch.”
Guam Symphony Society
Location: Hagatna, Guam
For more information call: (671) 477-1959
Interested in playing in the symphony?
Disney in Concert - GSS 48th season premiere concert
Dates and Hours: Oct. 18, 7 p.m., Oct. 19, 3 p.m.
Location: Southern High School G.A.T.E. Auditorium/Theater
Admission: $20 adults, $15 students, free ages 4 and below
Direction: Stephen Bednarzyk
Program: Popular Disney music from “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Disney Spectacular,” “Fantasia”, “Frozen” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Official island band plays classics to a different beat
There’s more than one source of live symphony music where America’s day begins. Guam Territorial Band is the island’s official band and has been performing symphonic band music at home and abroad since 1976.
Guam Territorial Band has performed at Carnegie Hall, was part of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Band and has even played the Sydney Opera House, according to Maximo Ronquillo, Jr., chief band master and music director.
“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,” he said.
Just like Guam Symphony Society, this is an all-volunteer community band with members ranging in age from middle school to senior citizen. The band consists of a few music teachers, a large number of youth and a handful of others who play music as a hobby.
“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.”
Guam’s long-term close ties with the military make band music is very popular on island he added – especially big band swing.
“Since I became 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.”
The band has also played concerts at various hotel ballrooms.
“Recently, the Southern High School fine arts auditorium ( which seats over 1,000) was renovated and reopened,” Ronquillo said. “We look forward to holding concerts there.”
Guam Territorial Band - 38th Anniversary Concert
Date: Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Crystal Ballroom, Lotte Hotel
Program: Silverado, Variations on a Korean Folk Song, Children’s March - Percy Grainger, Star Wars Soundtrack, Disney’s Frozen Soundtrack