• Hamamatsu Intercultural Center
  • Hamamatsu Foreign Resident Study Support Center
  • Hamamatsu Foundation for International Communication and Exchange
Hamamatsu Intercultural Center Hamamatsu Foreign Resident Study Support Center Hamamatsu Foundation for International Communication and Exchange

Interview of Local Foreign Residents :Vol.15 Jazz Singer Maria Lourdes

2016 Champion of the World Gold Medalist - The voice is a mirror of the heart
Delivering songs with emotions set to the melody

Maria was raised in a musical family, with her father as a violin teacher and her mother as a gospel singer. She is the ninth child among twelve siblings and has had a passion for singing since her early childhood. At the age of three, she began performing in front of her family, and officially embarked on her singing career by triumphing in a newcomer singer contest in the Philippines at the age of five.

At the age of eight, she made her professional singing debut by winning the championships of a song competition televised in the Philippines. Remarkably, she started composing songs at the age of nine. After securing her place as a professional singer, she started acting, leading a hectic but fulfilling daily life. At the age of eighteen, she came to Japan for the first time to perform. Maria accumulated numerous awards in jazz competitions, notably securing the first place position in a Shizuoka jazz competition in 2011. In 2015, she achieved the distinction of being a finalist in a jazz world cup held in New York, and in 2016, she took home the gold at the Champions of the World contest in Los Angeles. Maria possesses the captivating ability to infuse emotion into her songs, enthralling anyone who hears her voice. In the first half of this interview, we delve into the reasons behind Maria’s passion for singing and gain insights into her life in Japan.

What prompted you to start singing?

I’ve loved singing since I was little and I was definitely influenced by my parents’ involvement in music. I loved performing for my siblings and earning some pocket money through my singing. At the age of five, I participated in a newcomer singer contest, taking the stage with my uncle as my guitarist. While one might expect a five-year-old to sing a nursery rhyme, I chose a pop song, just like the adult contestants. I became the champion of the newcomer contest, and by the age of eight, I came first place in the championships of a televised song competition in the Philippines, marking my debut as a professional singer.

What was the best thing about becoming a professional singer?

I grew up in a typical Filipino household with twelve siblings, making life quite challenging. With the prize money from winning contests, we repaired our house. As a professional singer, I supported the business ventures of my three older sisters above me and covered the college expenses for my other eight siblings. In addition to my singing career, I also ventured into acting, allowing me to financially support my family. In the end, I was even able to build a new house in the Philippines. So, I believe becoming a professional singer was a great decision.

Your first visit to Japan was at the age of 18, right?

Yes, that’s correct. I first came to Japan to perform when I was 18 years old. My sister had told me that Japan was a safe country, so I felt reassured coming here. I remember being amazed when the trains in Japan arrived exactly on time. I was impressed by the Japanese people’s diligence, strong work ethic, and their commitment to punctuality.

What led to your decision to relocate here?

I met my husband when I was playing a concert here in Japan. After getting married, I chose to establish Japan as the hub for my activities. Initially, when I moved here, being a foreigner made it challenging to connect with our neighbors. However, I took the initiative to approach people in my community, just as I did when I was living in the Philippines. I actively engaged in conversations so that they could get to know me. Now, I have a good relationship with my neighbors and live surrounded by wonderful people.

Maria is a seasoned performer and has received many awards which attest to this. In 2011, she clinched the top spot at a jazz vocal competition in Shizuoka. Following this, she reached the finals at a world jazz vocal competition held in New York in 2015. In 2016, she became a gold medalist in Champion of the World event held in Los Angeles, standing at the pinnacle among approximately 2500 participants. Apart from her concert endeavors, Maria also serves as a vocal instructor. In 2022, she conducted the “Sing in English” course in collaboration with the Chubu Cooperative Center and HICE, attracting twenty-three enthusiastic participants. The course was a great success, fostering the belief that singing comes from the heart. Many students are eagerly awaiting the next installment of this course. While her concert activities were temporarily halted during the COVID-19 pandemic, Maria resumed her activities in 2023. In the latter part of the interview, we explore her sentiments towards singing.

How was your experience as an instructor for the “Sing in English” event hosted by the Chubu Cooperative Center and HICE in 2022?

I had the pleasure of having twenty-three students attend the course. I started by teaching them warm-up exercises for their voices and throats. Everyone was a bit shy at first and it was a challenging to get the participants to sing on front of each other. However, as the sessions progressed, it was really encouraging to see them loosening up. The main focus was on expressing emotions through the English lyrics. I was delighted to hear many of them say that they are looking forward to a second installment.

It seems you adapt your teaching methods based on the students’ goals.

For those who want to enjoy singing as a hobby, I encourage them to express their emotions through their voice. My main goal is to ensure that they have fun while singing. On the other hand, for those who aim to seriously improve their singing skills and want to take a more serious approach, I provide thorough instruction starting from the basics. Some students may become a bit overconfident as they make progress, but even seasoned professionals continue to approach lessons with a mindset of continuous learning. I emphasize teaching not just superficial techniques, but guiding them to convey the meaning of the song from the heart. Age is irrelevant when starting to sing, and I believe that anyone can sing well with practice.

What do you wish to convey through your singing?

I would be happy if those listening could feel something and resonate with my singing. Music is a wonderful art that moves people’s hearts. Whether it’s a large concert hall or a small venue, even if there’s just one person in the audience, I always deliver my songs with the same heartfelt intensity. I will be performing live at Jazz Spot Analog in Hamamatsu on May 11th. I would be love if many people could attend.

So what’s on the cards for you now?

I would love to host a radio program dedicated solely to discussing music. The world of music is profound, and I hope to introduce this fantastic realm to many people while also conveying its depth. I hope to realize this dream by getting a spot at a local radio station.

We’re looking forward to hearing all about what you do next! Thank you so much for your time today.

(Interviewed on December 2023)

Maria Lourdes

Won Newcomer Singer Award at age 5
Won in the championship of a televised singing contest at age 8, marking her professional debut
Started composing at age 9
First came to Japan at age 18
1st place in a jazz festival held in Shizuoka in 2011
Finalist in jazz vocal contest held in New York in 2015
Gold Medalist in 2016 Champion of the World held in Los Angeles
Currently working as a live performer and singing instructor