Saturday, May 26

Amateur interest grows to true love of music


Fourth-year anthropology student Arkae Tuazon balances his musical and academic life. He performed in Spring Sing 2009 with Rapture City Philharmonic.

Fourth-year anthropology student Arkae Tuazon balances his musical and academic life. He performed in Spring Sing 2009 with Rapture City Philharmonic. Christopher Wu


Singing tunes heard on the radio or playing instrumental music are hobbies not uncommon of students here at UCLA. Arkae Tuazon, however, stands out ““ not only does he play piano, drums, guitar and many other instruments, but he also composes his own songs.

More than that, it would be surprising to hear that Tuazon isn’t even a music student, he is a fourth-year anthropology student.

Tuazon’s relationship with music began at an extremely early age.

“I started conducting the Philippine national anthem as soon as I developed the muscle strength for it and could hear and differentiate sound ““ so about age 1,” Tuazon said.

Once Tuazon’s parents saw this talent, they fostered it by forcing him to take music lessons and play in front of people.

“I’d make up songs that sounded like the pieces I was supposed to play so that they would think I was a good kid,” Tuazon said. “And when asked to perform at parties and for guests, I’d improvise because I never actually learned any songs.”

Tuazon eventually grew up and became more emotionally involved with his music.

“I started having dreams of grandeur,” he said. “I would read about composers and their lives and there was something very romantic about being that solitary figure walking in the woods, composing in their heads and being all fiery with their lovers.”

Of course, Tuazon doesn’t simply compose in his head. He’s been formally trained in violin, piano and organ, played the drums in high school and continues to play the guitar and bass. He’s even tried his hand at various wind instruments, but finds he doesn’t have the patience.

The reason for this instrumental diversity is that Tuazon wants to be both a musician and composer.

“I think that being a musician and a composer are intertwined concepts for me,” he said. “You write to express yourself and you play to express what’s been written.”

At the end of his high school career, Tuazon was faced with the decision of whether to commit his life to music by majoring in music and applying to music schools, or applying himself in a different field.

“I felt like everyone else around me expected me to become a musician,” said Tuazon. “On one side, people whose opinions and insights I valued told me to follow my dreams and at the same time, … those who I equally trusted and valued indirectly let me know that individuals should always have a fallback plan.”

Tuazon’s decision was ultimately made when he found that something inside of him.

“I didn’t want to be just the music guy,” said Tuazon. “My mind may very well be good for other things as well.”

Although Tuazon may have formally committed himself to anthropology in college, this has not stopped him from becoming one of the better known and promising student musicians on campus, exploring multiple musical ventures such as Rapture City Philharmonic and Bruin Harmony. Through all of this, Tuazon said he believes he has changed as both an artist and as a person.

“I’ve gone through things that make songs definitely mean a whole lot more,” he said. “I took it as a cliche before and designated it to my adolescence and raging hormone-emo-ness. But when you fall flat on your face or experience true joy, every syllable has a color and feeling.”

Katrina Veldkamp, a recent UCLA alumna who has performed with Tuazon in the past, said she believes that Tuazon’s talents add to any group dynamic by enlightening those he works with.

“He begins with a broad talent ““ piano, singing, composing, lyricising ““ and builds upon that talent to create works of art,” said Veldkamp. “His creativity and enthusiasm for music and performing become an inspiration that his fellow performers can feed off of.”

The most notable group he has worked with is Rapture City Philharmonic, for the performance “Press Play,” which won the Best Band Performance award at Spring Sing 2009. Not only did Tuazon compose this piece, but he also performed it with Rapture City Philharmonic by playing the keyboard and singing.

While Tuazon enjoys working with other musicians, and has had success in doing so, he has recently begun doing more solo work.

“Music is kind of a selfish endeavor,” he said, “Basically, I just wanted something to show for my college years. I’ve decided to do more on my own because I feel like I’m entering a new phase of my life and that putting it all out there on my own would be a rite of cleansing.”

And even though this is Tuazon’s last year at UCLA, he plans to do a lot with it.

“I’m in the planning stages of a debut solo album ““ just for kicks,” Tuazon said. “I’ve gotten a manager so I can do more performances and gigs with Rapture City. I’m trying to organize some musical event with (Student Lenders in Developing Economies), a microfinance club I am involved with.”

Whether or not he becomes a musician, whether or not he becomes the next huge pop sensation, Tuazon isn’t putting away his musical aspirations quite yet.

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