Classical guitarist Aaron Aguila III. Technique helps but better to put heart into your music.

Aaron Aguila’s lucky guitar when he won the Jakarta ASEAN competition last year.

Aaron Aguila III with other winners of the National Competition for Young Artists including members of the jury. A good preparation is the key to winning any competition.

NAMCYA winner says he learned a lot too – from losing

CLASSICAL guitarist Aaron Aguila III won the top prize in the recently concluded National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) followed closely by Aemilio Enginco and with the jury declaring no one was worthy of the third prize.

“I was literally speechless I was almost in tears first when I heard my name for the best interpretation award of the required contest piece,” said Aguila who had earlier won the 2015 Jakarta International Competitions for classical guitarists. “I almost fell to my knees when my name was called for the top prize. I prepared myself for what whatever the results will be because as I figured it out, the other contestants were equally good.”

The jury was composed of classical guitarist Gino Misa, composer Chino Toledo and author of the contest piece “Snap Myusik #1”, pianist Peter Porticos classical guitarist Monching Carpio and violinist Juan Luis Munoz.

A graduate of the UP College of Music where he studied under Lester Demetillo, Aguila used a 2004 Karl Heinz Roemmich classical guitar in the competition. “This guitar has traditional bracing which gives it more warmth and really good round tones and different colors. My old guitar has a lattice bracing (the modern one). It is very loud but finally I reverted back to a traditional braced guitar because it taught me how to control my instrument more and just focus on the music. Because unlike the lattice braced guitar, traditional braced guitar is not as responsive as lattice guitars but traditional guitars give you more control of the instrument and it requires more effort which fits my technique and personality.”

Aguila didn’t make it when he joined the NAMCYA competition in 2009 and 2014 but it might as well he didn’t as he learned a lot of insights from losing. “Joining competitions made me realize that I really love the classical guitar. Earlier, I lost my first competitions, failed a lot and they ended in many frustrations. But I am really glad those things happened because now I can say to myself that playing this instrument is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Competitions made a better person, I knew myself better and it made me closer to God.”

After winning in Jakarta, he joined the Taiwan competition but did not make it. “That trip changed my life. I realized many things about life and more so about my craft. It allowed me to have a good preparation when I decided to join NAMCYA for the third time.”

But the most life-changing performance for Aguila is playing a birthday bouquet for world-acclaimed pianist Cecile Licad before the Taiwan competitions.

The pianist liked his performance especially Joaquin Turina’s “Sonata” after which he received this compliment, “Are you going to be the next Andres Segovia?”

The guitarist was speechless when he received a birthday greeting from the pianist herself who told him, “Happy birthday Aaron. I still remember how beautifully you played that night.”

For future NAMCYA contestants, Aguila shares this advice culled from his previous competition experience.

For him, a good preparation is the key. “Prepare yourself physically and most of all mentally especially if there is a required contest piece. Don’t just practice following a ritual. Give equal time to analyzing the piece. Then know yourself and follow a ritual where you will be most comfortable. Move the way you feel it will be easier for you. Because when you are on stage, it’s just you and your instrument and of course, the jury. Cliche as it sounds but always think about how are you going to make the music beautiful and you can do that through extreme analysis of the contest piece. Don’t overlook technical details, be inspired, seek advice, think outside the box, put yourself into it. You will make mistakes, but always learn from them. But most of all, learn how to move on when you don’t make it because as they say, there’s always someone better than you. At the end of the day, you will be judged on how you did justice to the music. Never play without your heart in the music. What you feel will be translated clearly in your instrument. Last but not the least, pray a lot and keep the fire burning!”

The successful NAMCYA participants were presented in a winners’ concert Saturday, November 26 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

(Some of the winners in various categories of NAMCYA 2016 are as follow: JUNIOR PIANO — Grand Prize: Jet Stephen Chong – NCR; Second Prize: Jannina Eliana Peña – NCR; Third Prize: Denzel Abarquez –JUNIOR STRINGS: Grand Prize: Mishael Romano (violin) – Region IX; Second Prize: Jeanne Rafaela Marquez (violin) – Region IV-A; Second Prize: Damodar Das Castillo (cello) – NCR; Honorable Mention: Amira Axelle Miel (violin) –SENIOR GUITAR: Grand Prize: Aaron Rafael Aguila III – NCR; Second Prize: Aemilio Cecilio Enginco – Region IV-A

Special Prize for Best Interpretation of Contest Piece (Snapmyusik by Josefino Chino Toledo) – Aaron Rafael Aguila III)

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