Johnum Palado, violinist, church organist and aspiring video game composer – The Oberlin Review
Could you talk a bit about your upbringing and musical experiences before Oberlin influenced your artistic development?
I feel like my upbringing was different. I have other violinist friends who started the Suzuki program when they were three or four years old, but I found my musical path under very different circumstances.
Coming from an immigrant family – I was born in the Philippines and my family immigrated to the United States when I was three years old – my family was still trying to get financially comfortable when I started my life in music. My father had several jobs and my mother worked in a casino.
My first introduction to music was through an after-school violin program sponsored by the music teacher there, and it was fun because most parents saw it more like a daycare.
As my family is Catholic, I also learned to play in a church, to play and improvise on the violin and to play hymns on the piano and the organ.
These experiences gave me a better appreciation of music not just as a violinist, not just as a pianist or composer, but as a human being. This allowed me to learn better during the transition.
Have you ever had a moment during your education that really made you want to study music?
I think it’s more a series of little moments for me; it’s more about discovering the little things that keep me invested in a career path in music. When I first listened to my hometown orchestra, I was blown away by the sound. I wanted to recreate that.
When I started playing the piano in church as a substitute, it also opened my eyes because I discovered that I really liked to improvise not only from what was available – the hymns or the scores – but also what went through my head. It led me to enjoy composing because it was so rewarding to see what was on my mind. visualized in a score.
In high school, I became interested in composition inspired by video games. I played pieces of The Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Bros.., “Studio Ghibli,” star warsand other funny VHS tapes I could find at home.
Is there a common thread that comes to mind when you think about how you live and work as a multifaceted musician?
By improvising, composing and playing for church on the violin, I learned to understand music outside of what’s on the page. For me, the common thread is to see music as a living thing that can be transformed into something that resembles you as a person.
People always forget to become themselves through music. I see music as a tool to help me become a better person. It can be stressful – part of what I do to combat that is just listen, because I feel like another part of being at the Conservatory is always working, always practicing, and rest is so crucial as a musician.
Music is a way to convey important messages to the audience, but it should also meet your needs.
What advice cream would you give your younger self?
It’s normal to be unsure of where you want to be. When I started playing the violin, I thought that was what I wanted to do – always explore, always be curious, even if it’s something you’re not sure about. For me, it was definitely about free improvisation, which I decided to dive into this semester. So far it’s been really cool. There are some things you couldn’t experience with just one linear path. It’s normal not to like the music at the end.
Right now, what kind of vision do you have for the future?
I’d be really happy to have my own studio and make music, whether it’s for video games or movies. Having this space to cultivate ideas is definitely a future goal for me. There is no feeling of standing still from 9am to 5pm and going home doing nothing. You are always busy exploring and understanding music.
I also see myself playing in church too; it is such a sacred place that speaks to me emotionally as a Catholic. These feelings of reverence can only be reproduced in a church and by playing music. It’s such a different experience compared to a concert hall. In a way, the music is not the centerpiece of the church service; that’s just part of it. And so even when it’s just playing music, the music has a purpose.