Internationally acclaimed Filipino pianist Dr. Raul Sunico: ‘You compete against yourself’

Community News & Features Jul 14, 2017 at 4:11 pm
DR. RAUL SUNICO

DR. RAUL SUNICO

By Michelle Chermaine Ramos

In celebration of the 119th anniversary of the declaration of Philippine Independence, the Philippine Consulate hosted An Evening with Philippine Classical Artists at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto on June 23, 2017. A VIP cocktail reception was held for members of the diplomatic corps and select media prior to the public performance. The event, produced with the aim of promoting an appreciation of Philippine arts and culture in Canada, featured the world-class talents of internationally acclaimed pianist Dr. Raul Sunico and Fil-Canadian soprano Lilac Cana who performed a repertoire of European and Philippine classics for which they received a standing ovation.

Dr. Sunico graduated from the University of the Philippines with degrees in music, mathematics, statistics and was awarded a scholarship by First Lady Imelda Marcos to complete his Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School in New York and a Doctor of Philosophy degree with a major in Piano Performance from New York University. He was also conferred a Doctor of Humanities degree by the Far Eastern University in 2005. He holds the distinction of being the only pianist in the world to perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s four piano concertos in a single evening, and three piano concertos of Tchaikovsky, on top of numerous national and international awards and concerts in his career.

What struck me about Dr. Sunico’s background is besides music, he impressively earned degrees and gained mastery of other fields commonly associated with the function of the left side of the brain with creativity and the arts linked to the right. Quite often, a person will show a natural talent leaning towards one side or the other. It is also common in our culture for children with artistic tendencies to put their dreams aside due to parental pressure to study more “practical” courses in business, law, science or math. Truth is, they are both two sides of the same coin as Dr. Sunico explained that his skills in math enhance his music in the way he analyzes the pieces he plays. He sat down to share his insight on life, success, and faith in a higher power.

MICHELLE: Growing up did you feel any pressure to focus on the sciences more than music?

DR. SUNICO: No, I never felt any pressure from my parents. They let me choose what I wanted to choose and what I finished were my choices. I give credit to my parents as they were never in the way of my choices.

Dr. Raul Sunico and Lilac Caña received a standing ovation from the audience

Dr. Raul Sunico and Lilac Caña received a standing ovation from the audience

MICHELLE: Seeing that you achieved so much in your musical career, that’s something a lot of people aspire to but sometimes don’t feel they can reach the same levels of success. So, what advice do you have for young people who are facing pressure from their parents to go into the sciences rather than the arts?

DR. SUNICO: Well, it’s difficult to say because sometimes it’s beyond the control of the children to pursue what they want. I’m not necessarily talking about music but there are some parents who force them to become doctors because the father is a doctor or the mother is a pharmacist or whatever. So, I guess, the child in deference to the parents, maybe they can satisfy the desire of the parents. Then when they are able to support themselves then they can pursue the degree that they want.

MICHELLE: Of all your achievements, what are you most proud of?

DR. SUNICO: Let’s just say that instead of being proud, I’m just thankful for all the gifts and opportunities that the Lord has given me. Whatever achievements I have, it’s not all because of me. It’s because of someone else up there.

MICHELLE: Yet they say God helps those who help themselves so that also involves your own efforts. What would you say has been the key thing that led to your success right now? What’s the greatest lesson you learned on this path?

Ambassador Petronila Garcia, Dr. Raul Sunico,  Lilac Caña and Consul General Rosalita Prospero

Ambassador Petronila Garcia, Dr. Raul Sunico,
Lilac Caña and Consul General Rosalita Prospero

DR. SUNICO: Well, it’s always the thing that whatever you want to do, you have to be the best at it – not necessarily the best in the world, but up to the level that your limit can have. You’re not necessarily saying that you’re the best pianist in the world but you always aspire to reach excellence where there’s no competition but yourself. You compete against yourself. You don’t compete against any other person and that goes too for every field. You have to be the best. First of all, you have to like it, and secondly, you have to be disciplined enough to be able to work towards that goal.

MICHELLE: What’s your motto in life?

DR. SUNICO: Practice makes perfect. That’s the musician’s motto.

MICHELLE: Where can people learn more about your upcoming projects? What’s next?

DR. SUNICO: I don’t have Facebook, unfortunately, because I would like to keep my privacy. But I have upcoming concerts in China, Europe, in France, Italy, the Netherlands, then I have one in New York. The date is fixed already on October 21. And I have a tentative concert in India in November.

Photos and captions provided by MC RAMOS

VIP guests mingle in the cocktail reception before the concert.

VIP guests mingle in the cocktail reception before the concert.

Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto Medical Officer of Health and Dr. Richard Choi

Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto Medical Officer of Health and Dr. Richard Choi

Consul General Rosalita Prospero delivered opening remarks before the show

Consul General Rosalita Prospero delivered opening remarks before the show

 

Cultural Officer Janet Hizon, Tina Huan and Monet Trespeses

Cultural Officer Janet Hizon, Tina Huan and Monet Trespeses

Mila Magno, Consul General Rosalita Prospero and Oswald Magno

Mila Magno, Consul General Rosalita Prospero and Oswald Magno

Consul General Rosalita Prospero and a guest at the VIP cocktail reception

Consul General Rosalita Prospero and a guest at the VIP cocktail reception

Michelle Chermaine and Dr. Raul Sunico

Michelle Chermaine and Dr. Raul Sunico