Learning Links Academy students perform side-by-side with internationally acclaimed talents to bring a timeless story into the present day.
A story revived through art
The holidays are often filled with many stories of hope and joy. For this Christmas season, one tale that stood out was the staging of George Friderick Handel’s Messiah! last December 17 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The 2019 revival brought Isaiah’s Prophecy of the Messiah to life through the unique and creative combination of music, dance, and speech poetry. In crafting this production, students of the Learning Links Academy (LLA) — aged 12 to 17 years old — worked side-by-side with industry veterans to showcase the power of the performing arts in telling timeless stories to the audience of today.
United under the baton of renowned conductor and professor, Maestro Herminigildo Ranera, LLA students proudly performed alongside the very best of the industry. Performing pieces arranged by Harmoniya’s head conductor Darren Vega, the Learning Links Chorale serenaded the audience alongside the internationally acclaimed UP Los Banos Choral Ensemble, while the LLA student-dancers were able to work under the choreographers of ACTS Manila. All in all, the event saw the participation of around 260 student-performers and staff members.
Honoring the vision, tending the gifts
Luisa “Teacher Nen” Castro, Messiah! Producer and Learning Links Directress, began this production as part of the school’s commitment to developing the students’ multiple intelligences. “Multiple intelligence, I would say, is a tool to fulfill the 5 minds of a leader,” she explains. “Through our Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts, we are able to develop all these 5 minds: disciplined, synthesising, creating, respectful, and ethical minds.”
Thanks to the customized training program provided by the school, the different student-performers were given the freedom and opportunity to dedicate their time to the deliberate practice of their own crafts. As a result, they were able to learn skills outside a traditional classroom setting through experiential learning, and through the tutelage of the different industry professionals.
“Our vision is to create a community of leaders building a humane society,” says Teacher Nen. “Staging Messiah! was a way of fulfilling that vision.”
Focusing on what matters
The performance was able to capture a wide audience, engaging viewers from ages 2 to 82. The hours of hard work and training resulted in a worthwhile experience for everyone involved. Amidst its success, and looking back on the entire experience, Teacher Nen shared that what she was most proud of were the students. Throughout this production, she has seen how these young individuals were able to showcase a strong sense of commitment and professionalism.
Janna Chris Mendez, a Grade 8 student and member of the chorale, shared that being part of the production was something that came as a surprise. Reflecting on the experience, she said that she “never imagined [herself] to join a big production and perform in one of the most famous stages here in the Philippines.” The experience made her more confident and inspired to perform more in the future.
Juan Rafael, a Grade 10 chorale member, shared that “being part of a production like this is something that you will never forget.” Amidst the different challenges and doubts, he recalls the relentless support and encouragement of his teacher who reminded him to “never stop believing in your dreams, and to never stop thinking about them.”
Meanwhile, for Grade 10 student and chorale member Seth Pillos, the production allowed him the opportunity to explore something that he has never done before. While he may have found it challenging at first, the amount of practice and experience that the production offered allowed him the chance to explore and learn a new craft, and step out of his comfort zone.
While all three underwent the common challenge of juggling their extracurriculars and academic work at first, they all shared that the experience was able to help them see the value of time management and discipline. Janna says that the experience was a good reminder that “we really had to work hard for success if we want it to come in the end.” Another collective highlight was being able to learn from experienced mentors like Maestro Ranera and the members of the UPLB Choral Ensemble.
More than the lessons that they learned, the student-performers shared that the best part of the entire experience was the overwhelming joy of seeing the support that they got from their families, and the undeniable fulfillment of being able to follow their dreams.
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