Medel Paguirigan, RN: Amid the pandemic, a baritone is born

He has done chorus in Andrea Bocelli concerts.

By Cristina DC Pastor

For nearly four decades, Medel Paguirigan diligently forged a career as a New York City nurse until his retirement in 2022. As he rose the ranks from hemodialysis nurse at Brookdale Hospital in the late 1980s to his final role as Corporate Senior Director in Nursing Education at New York Health & Hospitals, he kept within himself a yearning long hidden and unexplored: To be a chorus singer.

On November 16, Medel will get a chance to unleash his vocal prowess as a baritone. He will be performing in a solo concert, “An Evening of Filipino Art Songs (Kundiman)” at Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church on Lexington Avenue. It is a free concert, and he is inviting the Filipino community of New York to an evening of pure and elegant Kundiman music.

“I did not choose nursing as a career,” confessed Medel, 60, when interviewed by The FilAm.

He was not harboring any regrets, just looking back at the twists and turns that led him to nursing as a profession. Since he was a child, he received classical training in piano that included music theory. He thought growing up that his piano and music lessons were preparing him to embark on a career in music especially after he passed an audition at a leading Philippine conservatory in 1978.

“One night, my (mother), my first music teacher, talked to me and told me they cannot afford to send me to the conservatory,” he recalled. “I was devastated and questioned why all the preparations when it’s not going to happen?”

With Brian Logan, his partner of 14 years, whom he met in Nantucket.

Several years of music training down the drain, he proceeded to accept a scholarship at a nursing school In the Philippines. It was the only option on the table.

“It was a painful decision, but reflecting on it, it’s my passport to live in NYC, which is the only America I knew, and live an independent life!”

In New York, he was a nurse at major hospitals, among them New York Presbyterian (as hemodialysis staff nurse), NYU Medical Center (as senior staff nurse, Operating Room), and Mount Sinai (as senior manager, Nursing Education and Research).

Living in NYC allowed him to reignite his love for music by joining Filipino choruses and N.Y.-based choirs like the Collegiate Chorale, the New York Choral Society and Cantori New York which performed choral standards, operas, concerts and commissioned works at the world’s best venues.

Enjoying the company of friends from the Ilocano American Association of New York.

One of his unforgettable experiences was performing as part of a chorus at an Andrea Bocelli concert on many occasions where a chorus is needed in his repertoire.

“Performing with Andrea Bocelli as part of a chorus is the same as a regular concert in terms of preparation and technique,” he said. “The only difference is he is a high-profile artist and sells out a performance every time and that’s the magical component of the experience. He also has a wider audience…His audiences are always hyped up and energetic that it is easier to return the energy through our performance.”

Actually, Medel said he did not receive any formal voice training despite all the music classes he attended growing up. The long lull amid the pandemic and the boredom that came with it led him to remote vocal coaching from the Philippine Madrigal Singers. There, he met soprano Katrina Saga, a vocal coach and a former Madrigal singer.

“I took solace in taking remote classes until now as a retired person. I was lucky to learn under the tutelage of McCloskey Technique-certified Katrina Saga,” he said. “These classes helped me transition from being a chorus member to a soloist which have different skill sets and training.”

Medel finds encouragement and joie de vivre from Brian Logan, a lawyer and teacher, and his partner of 14 years. They met in Nantucket when they were both separately vacationing in 2008. The classic limerick provided the initial spark until they realized they shared more interest other than humor.

“He introduced himself as the man from Nantucket and I told him that’s why I came here. The rest is history!”

© The FilAm 2022

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