Michael Young: Playing the sax while connecting with his mother’s homeland

Kenny G is one of his favorite musicians.

Kenny G is one of his favorite musicians.

By Wendell Gaa

This article is part of a continuing series on Filipino Americans who have returned to the homeland, lured by more fulfilling careers and an opportunity to bridge and embrace their two cultures.

Michigan-born Michael Young has been living and working in Metro Manila for the past 11 years now.

An entrepreneur, he acts as a “middle man” between buyers and sellers in a world where government and private sector intersect. Michael is blessed not only with physical stature and good looks, but also with an ingrained ability to play the saxophone. He has released two albums, the first a collection of jazz music entitled “A Taste of M.Y.,” and the second, “Scenes From My Life,” which includes his harmonious version of classical pieces, such as “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy, and Broadway classics.

I had the pleasure to meet him when he was promoting his first album in New York at a reception held in his honor at the residence of former Consul General Mario de Leon, Jr. He had also been invited to perform at the Philippine Fiesta in New Jersey back in August 2011. He has become quite well-acquainted with several members of New York’s FilAm community.

Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michael is the son of a Filipina mother from Sta. Ana, Manila and a German father whose family hails from right near Munich. His grandmother helped to immerse him in the world of music at a very young age, until he developed a passion for playing the piano and then the saxophone.

At 9 years old, he began to display his growing musical talent in public. In high school, he made his performance debut at Manhattan’s prestigious Carnegie Hall. Michael would go on to further his studies in music at the University of Michigan where he earned his Bachelor of Music degree. He supplanted himself from the Midwest to the West Coast where he attended the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles to obtain his Masters in Music degree, and then finally a Doctorate in Musical Arts.

With wife Clarissa

With wife Clarissa

Michael’s decision to settle in the Philippines was a gradual one. He started visiting the country at just 5 years old, when he was only aware of the homes of his relatives, without really fully understanding the country and culture. He observed how other Filipino Americans growing up in the U.S. had been accustomed to the American way of life, without having any real connection to their cultural homeland.

During the summers of his graduate work at USC, he felt the urge to absorb Philippine culture for himself by traveling to the Philippines to explore its local music scene. He wanted to understand Manila by way of observing the locals, their food, customs, body language, and lifestyle.

“No matter how many Filipinos you live alongside with on a daily basis in the U.S., being here in the homeland where it all started really answered a lot of questions and gave me a sense of comfort,” he remarked. During his summer visits, he began to make connections among musicians and professional music networks.

Michael felt a calling to display his saxophonist skills as his contribution to Philippine society and its music industry.

“The world and U.S. doesn’t need another saxophonist, the most important thing in this life is contribution, as to what specifically I can offer,” he explained. He believed his talent as a musician was something he could use to help people in the Philippines gain a greater appreciation for saxophone music.

“I felt there was a certain ‘niche’ that was lacking here, as there is a plethora of guitarists and singers here in the country, and my jazz/saxophonist talent, along with the fact that I’m half-Filipino, were traits that I could use to my advantage,” he said. He admits sax musicians Kenny G and James Carter.

In Manila during the late 2000s, he displayed his saxophonist talent at several musical venues and was even invited to perform on a local TV talk show.

Michael was able to pass on his musical skills to students at the University of the Philippines in Diliman Conservatory of Music, where he was a as a part-time lecturer. He also taught at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music, St. Paul University Manila Music Department, and the Santa Isabel Department of Music.

A third album is definitely in the pipeline for this fine artist.

© The FilAm 2018

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