Fil-Am artist Kurt Tijamo happy to visit Philippines for the first time

Leah Salterio - The Philippine Star
Fil-Am artist Kurt Tijamo happy to visit Philippines for the first time
Kurt Tijamo Winterhalter, who has signed up with Curve Entertainment, says his Pinoy side is ‘part of the reason I am into music.’

MANILA, Philippines — Fil-Am singer, musician and songwriter Kurt Tijamo Winterhalter took 29 years to see the Philippines. Yet, he was honest about why it has taken him a long while to come to Manila. He was in Manila for two weeks with his younger brother, Sean, as well as his parents, John and Edith Winterhalter.

“My parents are working class,” Kurt disclosed. “They were both working full time, so I grew up with my lolo. My lolo is a self-made man. He’s 98 years old and still lucid. He earned his American citizenship because he fought in World War II.”

Growing up as a Fil-Am in the US, Kurt has a perspective different from his classmates, “How much of me is Filipino is always a different question for me,” Kurt admitted. “Either one or the other or both. That I’m Filipino-American. That’s just the nature of being a bi-racial child.”

The Tijamo family went over to the US in 1982. The first job of his grandfather was at McDonald’s. “My dad and mom met in a community college while they were trying to figure out their careers,” Kurt offered. “They were both taking computer programming at Los Angeles Valley College. It was love at first sight for both of them. Their love story is very cute. I hear it all the time.”

Kurt grew up with his maternal grandparents in the US. His parents are John and Edith Winterhalter. “My mom and her siblings, they were all working full time,” Kurt informed.

“Most of my mom’s siblings were in the US already, but they were not able to come back to the Philippines to visit. We were supposed to come two years ago. But then, the world turned upside down. That was the original plan, before I started my Master’s degree.”

The Filipino-American singer-songwriter is accompanied by his family during his first Manila visit to also promote his music.

Kurt graduated at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he studied classical music and opera. His undergraduate degree at the California State University Northridge (CSUN) was also classical music.

“I am fascinated with singing and the human voice,” Kurt asserted. “I always love music.”

His mom works at the CSUN as Associate Vice President for Budget and Strategic Business Operations. “All of my friends were afraid of her,” Kurt smilingly said about his mom. “Some of my professors, too.”

Surprisingly, Kurt, who is the eldest of four boys, is the only one who pursued music in his family. Although his dad plays the piano and the guitar. “My dad used to play music for us when we were kids, to put us to sleep,” Kurt shared. “My mom would sing Atin Cu Pung Singsing as a lullaby to us. That was the song my lola also sang to her.”

Kurt played kundiman songs like Anak Dalita, Pakiusap and Madaling Araw for his recital in his school. “The songs were not often played, but they are so beautiful,” Kurt maintained.

“One of the requirements in my recital when you graduate is to show the culmination of the work that you’ve done. The school has guidelines, but I convinced the school to allow me to breakaway from the traditional guidelines.

“My being Filipino is part of the reason I am into music. I wanted that reflected in the culmination of my studies there. So I just researched Filipino art songs basically. I asked my mom about it. She had suggestions for some songs. I discovered Francisco Santiago, the father of kundiman.”

Kurt was alone in his apartment in San Francisco when the pandemic started two years ago. “I don’t have family and friends,” he said. “I was just totally isolated. All I had to occupy me were my guitar and my computer. It was like I’m 14 again.

“I was lost in my bedroom with my guitar. So, I started thinking, what were all the places where I would love to be except here. I started thinking about my perfect day. Then I was able to write U & Me.”

The song eventually became Kurt’s first single when he was signed up by Curve Entertainment last year. He has six more tunes in his music file that he wants the public to eventually hear and be included in his debut album. Four more to complete an album.

“Next year will probably be two more singles that I will release and by 2024, I can complete an album. That will be great.

“We all need to be so creative in the entertainment industry,” Kurt said. “So much of music is such a big part of our world. I did two Facebook concerts, a Zoom concert. I’ve recorded a video of me singing with a piano accompaniment.

“I recorded the video. It was just all insane. We all learned how to be self-sufficient and record our own music. If I had not had my experience, I would not be able to collaborate with Kindred Productions.”

“So, when the opportunity to work with Curve Entertainment came, I said I’m going to do it. Me and my guitar, we’re going to travel the world together. We’re going to connect with people.”


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