Top News

FilAm Profile:
Filipino American Symphony Orchestra's Conductor Robert Shroder

Picture by Rick Gavino

The Filipino American Symphony Orchestra (FASO) was launched in 2008 and is the first Filipino Orchestra outside of the Philippines. They perform a variety of music ranging from Filipino classical music to both Hollywood and Filipino Film soundtracks. Their passion to represent the Filipino American community through their music has created international attention to their cause. Such FilAm Community leaders and executives as past Hollywood Foreign Press chairman Rueben Neapeles and Chairman of FilAm Arts Rocio Nuyda have joined their Board of Directors. After a decade in the community, FASO has earned high praise for its excellence winning the 2017 San Diego Fil-Am Humanitarian Foundation’s Historical Heritage Excellence Award.

We recently got an opportunity to sit down and speak with the founder and orchestra conductor Bob Schroeder.

Can you tell us about yourself?

I was born of a Filipino Mother and German American Father from Ohio. I grew up in Cavite, Philippines which is a wonderful city full of historical and cultural traditions. These traditions introduced me to my love for music which leads me to study music at the University of the Philippines.

How did you get started in music?

My grandfather was the conductor of the local band Magdalo. So naturally, I had a musical family, one where we woke up listening to classical music and went to be listening to Big band and Tony Bennett.

I went on to become the principal flutist in both the Manilla Symphony Orchestra and the Manilla Chamber Orchestra.

What inspired you to start FASO?

I had always dreamt about putting together a musical group of Filipino Americans. When I first decided to do this 10 years ago I had a hard time finding FilAm musicians. So, the first members were former members of the Manilla Symphony Orchestra and the Military Chamber Orchestra. Eventually, we were able to reach various FilAm musicians through college campuses and various other places. The Filipino American Symphony Orchestra is now a 65 piece orchestra of mostly Filipinos and Filipino Americans and we play everything from classical to film scores.

What is it you love about the FilAm music community?

There is something special about the FilAm music community. We bring culture and education to the younger generation. We have the opportunity to teach them about the beauty of Filipino Music.

As conductor of FASO, what is your proudest moment?

Often after shows, we get lots of compliments from our audience. They let us know how their heart swells up with fond memories of music they haven’t heard in a decade or more. We also take a lot of pride in being able to introduce Filipino classical music to the younger generation.

Who are your favorite Classic Filipino musicians?

Francisco Santiago. Santiago's masterpiece was the "Concerto in B flat minor" for pianoforte and orchestra and his most famous piece "Kundiman, (Anak-Dalita)".

Nicanor Abelardo was a Filipino composer known for his kundiman songs, especially before the Second World War.

Lucio San Pedro was a Filipino composer and teacher who was proclaimed National Artist of the Philippines for Music in 1991.

Levi Celerio was a Filipino composer and lyricist who is credited to writing not less than 4,000 songs. Celerio was recognized as a National Artist of the Philippines for Music and Literature in 1997.

FASO recently played at the Coalition of Filipino American Chamber of Commerce's Masquerade Gala and Board of Directors Induction. You can catch them this August at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. 

“It’s either I’m not Asian enough or I’m not White enough- what do I look like to you, a freaking alien or something? What do you want me to be?”

Mesti-So?! Is a quirky yet insightful short film directed by Ross Willett and written alongside Ron Nery Jr. The short was produced for the AT&T SHAPE Expo, where contestants can utilize the iconic Warner Bros. studio lots. The Embassy Courtyard / New York Park exterior sets make an appearance.

Ron, a working actor, narrates his acting struggles through a series of auditions. Specifically, as an ethnically-ambiguous actor, also known as the Mestizo. He goes from one audition to another, constantly told that he isn’t enough of a particular image. Even his friends assume that his unlucky auditions are excuses for not being good enough, to which he explains, “Because I’m a Mestizo.”

In Mesti-So?! the image standards of the entertainment industry deflect, rather than reflect the value of an actor’s image- which is why Ron suffers from either not being Asian or American enough for a role. Yet in Mesti-So?! Ron’s perspective credits his his worth as an actor in spite of all image standards: “Well no one said it was gonna be easy, it shows just how much you’re willing to lose- IF you lose.”

To tackle a controversial issue of typecasting in the film industry, specifically as an actor, isn’t a simple task. Yet Mesti-So?! Credits the potential of an actor in spite of all image standards. Furthermore, the short film unravels a quirky yet transparent tone that acknowledges both the labor and the fruits of an actor’s persistence. Especially, of an actor who doesn’t seem to fit one casting mold, but persists in spite of image standards.