Matthew John Ignacio, a 21-year-old cellist and music prodigy, wanted to be a doctor. But at age 12, he accepted a music scholarship from Cerritos College in California and skipped high school. At 14, he got his music degree. Last spring, he finished his RN program at Cerritos College, hoping to pursue medicine someday. But for now, as a concert soloist, Matthew studies piano and cello at the Colburn School of Performing Arts.
Matthew was born in America to Filipino parents, Paige and Frances Ignacio, who showered him with a loving devotion that supported his artistic abilities.
“Doors opened for me at ABS-CBN. I’ve been performing since I was eight at TFC (The Filipino Channel) concerts,” Matthew said.
At eight years old, he also started playing in piano competitions. He saw competitions--and winning--as a way to improve himself. At age nine, Matthew started playing the cello.
Unlike other instruments, playing the cello cannot be self-taught. One needs lessons from a maestro. Thousands of practice hours, focus, refinement and skills maintenance are required before one gets to the point of mastering the instrument.
And for Matthew there is also the Pilipino word damdamin, which means “feelings.” Matthew’s damdamin shines through his music. His audience cannot see it but can feel it reverberate when he plays the cello, the piano and the accordion.
“As a Filipino artist, every piece of music I play comes from my heart. I am blessed to study with the best teachers. Without this damdamin in my heart, my music technique and training, the notes would sound robotic.”
Matthew has played the cello with Oscar-winning composer Andrea Morricone. The composer chose Matthew to be the soloist for his orchestra. Matthew did not know what to expect but did his best. When the performance ended, Matthew was emotional at the standing ovation he received. Maestro Morricone whispered, “Matthew, I want you to play for me forever.”
As his audience, we don’t see the dark moments, the daily grind and stamina that super-achievers like Matthew endure to realize their goals. We only see the best times and hear the thunderous applause with no thought to their hard work. It is Matthew’s perseverance at his craft that perfects his performance. His music from the cello uplifts us, transports us to heights of happiness and for a few ethereal minutes makes us forget our travails.
At 21, Matthew John Ignacio, cellist, has found his calling. He is devoted to his audience. “Happiness is about being good, doing well and serving others through your talent. It’s not about you. It’s about giving and making the world a better place.”
Matthew John Ignacio plays “Maalaala Mo Kaya” in this video:
Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey, is a journalist, food writer and member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). She blogs about Filipino home cooking and culinary travels to the Philippines on her site AsianInAmericamag.com.
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