Demystifying the cello

Cello coach Marc Tagle

By Maricar CP Hampton

The comparison to Yo-Yo Ma may seem unfair, but can’t be helped.

Like the Grammy-winning cellist and Sony recording artist, David Marc Tagle became enamored with music and the Baroque-era instrument at the age of 4, maybe 5. Marc has since been the recipient of many awards and recognition, and is probably one the few Filipino cellists in New York.

“My first instrument was a guitar, and then I started playing the cello. Once I fell in love with the sound, that was it,” he said.

Cello music, he explained, “speaks so much straight to the heart. It’s a sound you can’t not listen to.”

More from Marc, like he was on a mission to convert: “The cello as it’s been said is the closest sound to the human voice, it can be made to sing and talk.”

Under the guidance of acclaimed cello teacher Irene Sharp and Juilliard’s Katharine Kit Brainard, Marc won one honor after another in his teen years — first place at the Kohl Mansion Chamber Music Competition, second place at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music String Concerto Competition, featured musician in Tchaikovsky’s Rococo on its Asia Tour.

He eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree majoring in Cello Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

He has traveled around the U.S., Asia, Canada and Europe, performing solo and participating in music festivals and competitions. He performed as a guest cellist with the Beijing Conservatory, and recorded for Hong Kong Radio 4 with the Pantoum Trio of classical musicians.

“In any competition environment, it’s very demanding. It can be very good because it demands the highest standard for yourself,” he said.

A Fisher-Price musical toy may have triggered his early interest in music, but genetics made sure the interest is sustained until Marc developed into a disciplined musician and a dedicated educator. He remembered his mother playing the piano when he was a young boy, while his father — a former priest – sang the Gregorian chant.

Making music with his cello

According to Marc, Filipinos are a natural at playing the cello because “the Filipino by nature loves to sing and has a natural ability for rhythm, and is very sensitive.”

However, access to the instrument and the training is turning away some potential dabblers.

“In the Philippines, the Randall and the Octavina guitars are more readily available. And then the teaching as well. There is really a cost to obtain an instrument — to buy the material the music the instrument the lessons themselves. It’s quite a commitment. The lessons can add up. Any music, any instrument you take seriously you take lessons, yeah it’s going to be expensive,” he said.

At the Children’s Orchestra Society (COS) in Long Island, where he’s been a cello coach to children and teens since 2001, Marc is proud to be part of the training of the next- generation cellists.

The not-for-profit COS was founded by the husband-and-wife team of chamber musician and violin teacher Dr. Yeou-Cheng Ma and conductor Michael Dadap, who is Filipino. Marc was a guitar student of Dadap.

“I hope to guide others on their musical discovery,” said Marc. “I find it exciting to help others find their ‘Aha moment’ when they understand some new way of looking at something, or realize what it takes to make a sound on the cello.”

Children are fun — and a challenge — to teach, he said. “The challenge for me is to realize how everyone is different, and to give them exactly what it is that they might need at their personal stage so that there is a natural flow to their progress.”

While he sees more Filipino youngsters are now beginning to develop a fondness for the cello than before, he believes the instrument remains largely steeped in mystery.

“There’s a lot of technical mysteries to play the instrument that sometimes it’s not explored too much,” he said. He is hoping that through teaching and performing, he becomes a source of inspiration.

Maricar CP Hampton is a freelance journalist. She was awarded a 2010 New America Media fellowship on Ethnic Elders and Caregiving.


  1. Amos wrote:

    I enjoyed this article. Many thanks for this remarkable write. Time will come when the cello will become as popular as the piano.

  2. […] rest is here: Demystifying the cello Share and […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: