Two Bands and an Orchestra

| Written by Fred Dabu

UP Symphonic Band. (Photo by Han Asuncion)
UP Symphonic Band. (Photo by Han Asuncion)


The University of the Philippines community takes pride in its official bands and orchestra: the UP Symphonic Band, a Student Performing Arts Group; the UP ROTC Band, its marching band; and, the UP Symphony Orchestra, its newest system-wide orchestra.


UP Symphonic Band

The UP Symphonic Band has proven itself worthy of the Honorific Award for Student Performing Arts Group (HASPAG) for all its accomplishments in local and international concerts and events throughout the years.

Initially named in 1986 as the UP-Philippine Youth Symphonic Band (PYSB), the group formally changed its name to “UP Symphonic Band” in 1998 under the leadership of its Music Director and Conductor, Asst. Prof. Rodney Ambat of the UP College of Music.

Last October 2018, the band held its “Symphonicity” concert at the Abelardo Hall, its latest in its long list of remarkable concerts held at venues such as the Abelardo Hall Auditorium, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philamlife Theater, Concert at the Park in Luneta, and many others. Also recently, the band performed at the closing concert of the UP College of Music centennial in September 2017, the CCP Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino in April 2017, and the CCP International Winds and Jazz Festival in July 2016.

Many of its members are winners of the National Music Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA) and Philippine Representatives to the Asian Youth Orchestra and Southeast Asian Youth Orchestra and Wind Ensemble (SAYOWE).


UP Symphonic Band. (Photo by Han Asuncion)
UP Symphonic Band. (Photo by Han Asuncion)



The University’s official marching band, the UP ROTC Band, provides music for formal ceremonies, parades, and occasions such as the Lantern Parade, Commencement Exercises, Investiture Rites, inaugurals, and other academic affairs.

The Band has more than a hundred years behind it. It was the Philippine Constabulary that formed the “UP Band”, which the UP Department of Military Science and Tactics (UP DMST) then renamed the “UP ROTC Band” as part of the UP Reserve Officers Training Corps (UP ROTC).

The UP ROTC Band’s alumni include “top caliber musicians with diverse specializations, National Artists, Gawad CCP Awardees…, top military band commanding officers, principal musicians of Philippine Philharmonic, Manila Symphony, ABS-CBN Philharmonic, San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra, UP Jazz Ensemble, and some of the best marching bands,” writes Leonardo G. Quinitio (2018) in the book Saysay Himig: A Sourcebook on Philippine Music History, 1880-1941.

Since the members of this band are also instrument majors of the UP College of Music, there was a period when it was called the “UP ROTC Symphonic Band”. Quinitio writes that this was when the “line up of musicians was upgraded from the basic regimental band structure to one with bigger brass and woodwind sections, additional percussion, timpani, and a string double bass section.” It was also “a vital laboratory for performance classes of the UP College of Music for brass, winds, woodwinds, percussion, and band conducting students.”

Prof. Ambat clarifies that the UP Symphonic Band and the UP ROTC Band are two different groups but are comprised of almost the same members of Music students. The 60- to 80-member UP Symphonic Band is under the supervision of the UP College of Music, performs in concerts, and fulfills academic functions, while the UP ROTC Band is the marching band of the UP ROTC.


UP Symphony Orchestra

The UP Symphony Orchestra, the University’s official system-wide orchestra, recently announced its pioneering roster and first Yuletide treat.

The orchestra, under the musical direction of Prof. Josefino Toledo, now has 65 instrumentalists from UP Diliman, UP Los Baños, and UP Manila, and has started its rehearsals for its first public performance in December.

Dean LaVerne C. de la Peña of the UP College of Music said the newly-formed UP Symphony Orchestra aims to mount three major concerts per semester, or six concerts plus two special performances each year. Dean de la Peña adds that the orchestra will also serve as a laboratory for UP’s composers, conductors, and performers.

The UP Symphony Orchestra is supported by the UP System Fund and hosted by the UP College of Music, as authorized by the UP Board of Regents on August 30, 2018.