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Tracing CCP scholar Lizzie Bett Estrada’s musical journey

No dream is too big when you have the courage to pursue it. For UK-based, classical soprano Lizzie Bett Estrada, her dreams can move mountains and people – in more places than one.

No dream is too big when you have the courage to pursue it. For UK-based, classical soprano Lizzie Bett Estrada, her dreams can move mountains and people – in more places than one.

“My parents can sing. We are a typical family who enjoys karaoke,” laughed Estrada. “I started joining choirs in elementary since I enjoyed singing with people, and then I got to know more about my voice and what it was actually capable of.”

Estrada is one of the scholars of the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ International Scholarship Program, which aims to provide financial support to exceptional learners who have achieved outstanding academic and artistic excellence in their respective art forms and have been accepted to higher educational institutions outside the Philippines.

Estrada’s love for singing brought her to the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA), where she graduated with Highest Honors and an Outstanding Student Award in the field of music.

The Laguna-born music artist looks back on the start of her musical journey and revealed the depth of her father’s support to get her into PHSA.

“My dad was the one who suggested PHSA. I think his intention was just getting free tuition so he didn’t know that singing in PHSA is actually classical. I didn’t know anything about music theory when I first auditioned, so suntok sa buwan siya.”

Back then, the young CCP scholar persisted in learning basic music theory from her choir conductor until she passed her second audition and finally entered the learning institution located in Makiling.

“I really enjoyed singing during my first four years in Makiling. Sobrang saya na makapag-aral ng iba’t ibang genre tulad ng pop and choral singing. And then I started joining competitions outside of the country,” she enthused.

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Estrada competed in Thailand and Singapore during her second and third years in PHSA. Despite not winning, she was happy to perform in different music halls abroad. The experience made her hope to perform on a bigger stage.

“It was a slow and gradual love for singing and opera. Hearing stories from my teachers, parang ang sarap mangarap nang malaki kasi ‘yung mga kinukwento nila that they’ve been everywhere. So I thought, what if I could also do all those things?”

Estrada’s repertoire grew under the tutelage of her PHSA mentors Camille Lopez-Molina and Pablo Molina. She eventually received scholarship offers from two prestigious music schools in London – the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Despite her concerns over the expenses of moving to the United Kingdom, Estrada and her father were determined to pursue the once in a lifetime opportunity.

Suntok lang sa buwan. I was also trying my best but it was my dad who wrote all the letters and physically sent them to the NCCA, Ayala Foundation, and the CCP. We were hoping they would support us since we already have a full scholarship – and they did.”

The CCP, through its then president Margarita Moran-Floirendo, offered to make Estrada one of its International Scholars and  shoulder her accommodation, allowances, and other educational expenses.

Currently, Estrada is taking the Music Standard Pathway program at the Royal Academy of Music and training under the tutelage of Professor Susan Waters. She recently took home the first prize at the Kathleen Ferrier Society Bursary for Young Singers in Manchester, England.

Estrada reflects on her experience: “Two weeks before the competition, we had a run through during our performance class.”

“And funny enough I was being too humble – as Filipinos tend to be – so, pagkatapos ko kumanta, I kept saying ‘Oh no, I didn’t really do good kasi I made so many mistakes.’ Kinausap ako ng teacher ko. She said, ‘You really did good, it’s just in your culture to be humble. That’s why the first thing you thought was that what you gave was not enough. But the truth is, it is enough.”

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Estrada realized she just had to let herself enjoy the music and feel the genuine appreciation of the audience to make her performances more meaningful.

“I felt like I won not because I was sure na mananalo ako, but because I discovered that feeling myself. It was very nurturing for me. I was free.”

Nowadays, Estrada is actively working on how to improve herself by exploring her strengths and weaknesses. She recalls a lesson from her mentor Lopez-Molina about having grit so she could push through the obstacles that may come her way.

“Just dream big. Sabi nga nila, it doesn’t cost anything to dream.”

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