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US violinist brings music advocacy to Phl

American classical artist Noel Martin has been training young talents in developing countries

American violinist Noel Martin is in the country to promote his advocacy of teaching underprivileged children on how to play the violin. Noel wants to inspire children by providing them with free lessons.

A native of Texas, Noel was born into a musical family. He developed a love for playing violin and for classical repertoire at an early age. He trained under renowned teachers Fredell Lack, Margaret Pardee and Josef Gingold for his formal violin lessons. Noel pursued music at Baylor University under Bruce Berg and earned his Masters in Music under Kenneth Goldsmith at Rice University. He also studied Theology at the University of St. Thomas.

Noel has performed with numerous ensembles, chamber groups and orchestras, including the Malaysian Philharmonic, Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera, to name a few. He is currently a member of Mercury: The Orchestra Redefined. Noel also worked as a faculty member at Baylor University and at the University of St. Thomas in Texas.

In 2009, while performing in Panama, Noel became acquainted with El Sistema, a program from Venezuela which inspired him to work with children in developing countries. And on the invitation of Sistemang Pilipino, a non-profit organization, he went to Cebu to teach violin to a group of underprivileged children.

Noel saw the potential of his advocacy to reach out to more children on a more regular basis after seeing progress with the children as early as four weeks into the program.

His violin performance and pedagogy program are focused on the importance of ensemble or group playing. “As professional musicians, one of the most rewarding things we do is to make music with other people. It’s very satisfying. It’s very inspiring. I like the kids to experience that as soon as possible,” Noel says. 

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He observed a boost in confidence with the children who were just starting out because even if they were playing the easiest violin parts, they felt the satisfaction of being part of the harmony.

One of his private students, Misha Romano, who is based in Dipolog City, recently won the grand prize for the strings category (violin) at the 2016 National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA). Misha would have violin lessons with Noel in person and through Skype.

Despite the technical challenges and the 14-hour time difference, Noel saw the passion and determination Misha had. He says, “I met Misha when I came to Cebu a few years back. I would have some coaching sessions with him during my stay and eventually his parents asked me if I could give him lessons through Skype when I’m not here in the Philippines.”

Noel says that it is important for the students to enjoy what they’re doing and to practice consistently for them to succeed.

Today, Noel is currently working with the Ayala Foundation through Coke Bolipata to teach violin to selected students from CENTEX (Center of Excellence in Public Elementary Schools) in Tondo, Manila. He hopes to meet more people, schools and organizations that will help him continue his advocacy and raise musical talents.  — With reports from Almed Garcia and Julian Mauricio

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