SLU Band – A LEGACY

After Saint Louis University started its collegiate level in 1952, it likewise started to organize and maintain a school band in 1953 which, through the years, became the pride not only of the university but also the entire City of Baguio, its residents and Louisians worldwide. Generations of college students who are financially inadequate to pursue college education but who are gifted with skills in playing musical instruments have been benefited in their college days by being full scholars as members of the band. Rain or shine, regular school day or a holiday, these working scholars provide the superb classic rendition of the Pambansang Awit, the graduation march Aida or a fanfare for a cum laude graduate or a choreographed street dancing during Panagbenga every February or just plain musical entertainment through intermission numbers in school programs. These made the SLU Band an institution in itself. As Baguio grew through the years in its economic and social situation, so did the SLU Band.

Each time the band is heard and seen in the street parades and other functions, it is immediately associated with SLU as an academic institution. Likewise, almost everyone familiar with SLU as a center of education readily knows that it has a professional school band which delivers crisp, excellent notes whether for a marching piece or a difficult overture.

Mr. Macario G. Fronda has been the Band Director all these 50 years of the countrywide-famous SLU band and who at age 81 is still actively setting the directions of the band, setting the policies and imbibing values that every Louisian band member should have, the foremost of which is the virtue of discipline. If an true admirer of the SLU Band wants to know its golden past, there is no other rich resource but Mr. Fronda himself- the composer, arranger and conductor – and the “surrogate father” of a special breed of musicians in the campus. He vividly remembers organizing a small 11-member band way back in 1953 when the school was still known as St. Louis College. Since his problem then was the lack of prospective members, he had to travel to Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur just to recruit them. The school started to buy instruments and wooden music stands to be used in concerts and practices.

In 1957, the band members were already furnished with the elegant and smart-looking gala uniforms. Because the band was already getting to be well-known in the 1960s and with the school’s generosity and Christian spirit to benefit as many students as possible, the number of members swelled to 99 in 1967. The blooming of the electronic age in the 1980s, however, caught up with the band and the choices of the youth shifted to electronically-enhanced musical instruments, thus membership plummeted to just 39 in 1988.

As the years went by, due to the economic difficulties faced by parents in sending their children to school, the membership picked up again. To provide equal opportunity, Mr. Fronda proposed in 1998 (and was approved) that the band accept lady members. As of the 1st semester 2003, SLU is benefiting a total of 140 band scholars mostly coming from the CEA.

Because of the excellent track record of the SLU Band, it became a perennial winner in many competitions. Foremost of these are the yearly first place awards it wins during the Baguio Flower Festival Panagbenga, during Independence Day parades, Binalonan Tours and in Camp John Hay festivities. The SLU band is proud to have been featured back-to-back with other professional bands such as the former PC Band, 13th Air Force in Clark Airbase, Coca-Cola, Banda 45 from Bulacan, PMA Band, Kabataan Band in Nueva Ecija and the Banda 55 in Bataan.

Today, as the alumni Lousians of the SLU Band practice their professions as medical doctors, teachers, engineers, industrialists, lawyers, businessmen, military personnel, or government and private office workers here in the Philippines or overseas, they still carry with them the fond memories and the virtues they learned from being an alumnus of the SLU band. Indeed, as SLU was the right choice where knowledge and learning came to fulfillment for every SLU graduate, equally so is the SLU Band which serves as the university’s legacy to every successful former band member, to the university’s history and to the community.