Date: July 23, 2013
What do Andrews University, 100 young musicians from around Asia, and a Filipino governor have in common? The answer is Claudio Gonzalez, director of the Andrews University Symphony Orchestra.
Gonzalez recently directed the orchestra portion of the International Adventist Youth Music Festival in the province of Negros Occidental in the Philippines. In partnership with Central Philippine Adventist College, Gonzalez worked with Heidi Cerna, music director at CPAC, to coordinate the event for advanced young musicians across the continent.
This is the third Bible, health and music camp Gonzalez and Cerna have done together; previous camps were held in Costa Rica and Malaysia. The 2013 camp hosted youth from China, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea and various locations in the Philippines.
“During the camp, we instruct kids in three important areas,” explains Gonzalez. “Physical health, spiritual health, and appreciation for and improvement in music performance.”
Camp attendees participate in morning and afternoon devotions, as well as music-based worship services during their two-week stay. Regular activities include Bible classes, health lectures, vegetarian cooking classes, and music ensemble rehearsals.
Students participate in six hours of music every day, in two levels: elementary and intermediate/advanced. In addition to the orchestra, which Gonzalez conducts, the camp also includes choir, and occasionally handbell and wind ensembles.
“This camp is really an evangelism opportunity,” says Gonzalez. “Music reaches more people more easily and effectively than walking door-to-door with a Bible in our hands.”
For example, during the event in Malaysia in 2012, camp attendees visited and performed at local nursing homes and orphanages. Cerna also sought connections in Kuala Lumpur and found various music ensembles in the city to join her young orchestra for a concert at the close of the camp.
“Most of the people in Malaysia are Muslim,” explains Gonzalez. “They don’t know much, if anything, about Christianity, let alone Adventists, and there they were, playing excerpts from Handel’s ‘The Messiah’ alongside us.”
Before the camp started in the Philippines this year, Cerna and Gonzalez called on the governor of Negros Occidental with a proposal for him to host a violin and piano concert in the capitol building. He liked the idea and agreed, inviting all the province dignitaries to attend.
“They built a stage, provided a stage manager for the event, and warmly welcomed us to their capitol,” says Gonzalez, who was the violinist for the concert. When he heard about the youth music camp concert the governor invited them to hold it at the capitol, as well.
“Our continued interactions with the governor and his staff led to a greater awareness of CPAC—who they are and what they do,” says Gonzalez. Shortly after, the CPAC Chorale was invited to sing the national anthem for the governor’s swearing-in for a second term, and he requested more information about the camp in order to encourage more young people from his community to attend next time.
In addition to directing at the camp, Gonzalez also serves as a regular consultant for the music department at CPAC. Opened in 2010, the department is young and looks to an experienced music professor such as Gonzalez for guidance on best practices.
“I answer questions year-round for them regarding enrolling music education majors, how to improve various areas of the department, and the best way to select and organize their music library,” says Gonzalez.
More than simply music, the camp directors and participants view what they do as a ministry.
“This is a new way of sharing our mission as Adventists and as Andrews University,” Gonzalez says. “We educate our students through music and then we take a message—without talking about religion at all—to the world, further associating our institution and the Adventist Church with dignity and with hope.”