The BAM method hits Cebu

Vanessa Balbuena (The Freeman) - January 23, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines – What began as off-duty musings between a music teacher from Ohio, Texas and a powerful vocalist from Lutopan, Toledo is now a reality. And the Browns couldn’t be more thrilled!

Anna Marie Fegi-Brown and husband Adam Michael Brown had immense pride written on their faces as they finally opened the doors of their baby, Brown Academy of Music (BAM), last January 8 before classes officially began January 11.

The road to arriving to this day – of at last welcoming friends, colleagues and family to their own music school – wasn’t paved smoothly. But with a dogged determination they both share, no stumbling block was too huge for them to surrender.

When Adam met Anna in the Royal Caribbean International luxury cruise liner off the coast of Greece in 2008, they already had a cumulative 40 years of music experience and expertise:  he from the academe and she from international music performance.

“The music school was one of the first things that brought us together five years ago,” recalls Adam, an American music instructor, and a seasoned musical director and drummer.

“Most of the time, the conversations in the ship are the colleagues-after-work kind: you talk about your day, about this boss or that client; shallow venting. But me and Anna, we talked about music, and she mentioned ‘school.’ My degree is Music Education, so this music school is what we’ve been talking about since we first met.”

Adam earned his Bachelor in Music degree (Cum Laude) and Master of Science in Education, specializing in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment (Summa Cum Laude) from the University of Texas. Before being a musical director at the Royal Caribbean International, he taught high school music, creating original curricula for several secondary education programs. He also created programs and directed performances in concerts and festivals throughout the United States. As a cruise ship musical director, he worked with several ships in their fleet, performing with musicians from around the world.

Anna, who began a flourishing music career after renowned musical composer-arranger Ryan Cayabyab discovered her at 16 for Smokey Mountain, calls BAM an “overdue dream.”

That 2013 hurdle

Anna had told The Freeman in a 2012 interview that she and Adam will be in Cebu for good after partnering with friends for a music school. But six months after that announcement, the couple’s relations with their business partners turned sour due to trust issues.

In August 2013, Adam filed a complaint for grave coercion against their business partners whom they accused of illegally terminating their partnership.

“Because of what happened, my husband and I decided to leave and do two contracts to just be away,” says Anna. “We traveled and at the same time, I experienced a different challenge because for the first time, I was the vocal captain of the singers, while my husband was working with the orchestra. It was also like a honeymoon for us. It didn’t really feel like work because performing music for us is our passion.”

Aside from using the time away to gather their bearings, the couple utilized their globe-trotting to prepare for their second try at building a music school in Cebu. Says Adam: “We’ve taken the last year and a half to plan everything out. We got to travel, experience different cultures, and we saw different schools and performers from Europe to Asia to Northern Africa. We took note of designs of buildings and the techniques of different schools.”

Looking back, Anna sees their 2013 experience as something they had to go through. It gave them that added push to strike out on their own, while learning to be cautious the next time around.

“I’d say that was a blessing for me because it proved how much I really wanted to have a music school. Even with what happened, the more I wanted to pursue it,” says Anna, before noting, “One thing we learned is that if there are things we’re not sure about, we should seek advice from an expert. Music, that’s our expertise, but for everything else, we’ll make sure this time to consult a lawyer or a consultant.”

“Even as the situation was progressisng, we knew our dream was not going to change. You can’t discourage a person from their dreams; you just find another avenue to achieve it. It motivated us to do it on our own, and we learned that we indeed can do it on our own,” adds Adam.

The BAM method

Anna and Adam believe that the musical Queen City of the South is “ripe for the integration of music theory instruction into the total talent development of aspiring Cebuano students.”

Classes offered are Voice for ages six and up, Children’s Music for ages six months to five years old and Musical Instruments (drums, keyboard, guitar, bass guitar, violin, saxophone, flute and trumpet) ages six and up.

BAM’s seven rooms are designed for one-on-one lessons. All the teachers are from Cebu, except for one who flew from the United States after completing a Music degree in Boston.

Asked what BAM offers that current music schools in Cebu don’t, Adam says, “Our school is based on really teaching the fundamentals of music. Everything from reading music sheets…it’s not just about getting up on stage to perform and have fun, but it’s actually learning all the basics of music. It’s still performance-based and fun, but we’re about building the foundation. They will become musicians in the real sense rather than just ‘Go perform this song.’”

“Also, BAM’s lessons are designed to meet the US National Association of Music Education standards,” he adds.

For Anna, she’s particularly excited about their Children’s Music program. “The guardian is included in the lessons. This can be an alternative to enrolling toddlers at play time. It’s really more for the parent and how he/she can bond with the kid, like how to calm the child through music,” beams Anna.

“It’s like learning language,” chimes in Adam. “It’s so much easier when you start young.”

One thing’s for sure, Anna isn’t seeking out to hone the next Regine Velasquezes or Anna Fegis. “Our school will teach the students to find their originality, their uniqueness. At the end of the day, there’s already a Beyonce. So we want them to find their own voice.”

Brown Academy of Music Cebu, Inc. is located at Unit 201-A3, 2/F, Northgate Centre, Governor M. Cuenco Avenue, Banilad Cebu City. For inquiries, contact 09988573050, 09173104500 or 4107580.

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