Ryan Cayabyab’s music school is more than a business | Inquirer Business

Ryan Cayabyab’s music school is more than a business

By: - Business Editor / @tinaarceodumlao
/ 02:14 AM October 22, 2023



Making a profit was the last thing on the mind of National Artist and Ramon Magsaysay honoree Ryan Cayabyab when he and his wife Emmy put up the Ryan Cayabyab The Music Studio in October 1986.Their primary motivation then was to provide some employment to friends from the Voice department of the UP College of Music in Diliman whom they thought were too just good to be out of a job.

These pioneer teachers included Jonathan Velasco, Nolyn Cabahug and Aileen Espinosa, who may be familiar names now in the world of music, but in 1986 were young graduates who could not immediately get a full-time teaching job because universities required professors to have at least a master’s degree.


“They were one big group of friends, so I told Emmy, let’s hire all of them,” shares Cayabyab, president of the music school.


Thus, in October 1986, the music school opened in a 149-square-meter space at the Sunvar Plaza in Makati with a staff complement of four voice teachers, two piano teachers and an office assistant, with the capital coming from pooled savings.

There was no official business plan to speak of and any financial projections they had were down to the simple computation of how many students they needed to be able to pay the staff and keep up with the rent and utilities.

While profit was not the main factor that made them put it up, they were not so naive as to think they can live on good intentions alone. They had to bring in enough money to at least cover their expenses.

It was not exactly the textbook way to start a business but then again, Cayabyab is not the type to conform and they firmly believed that there was a hidden demand for the services that they can provide.

Their first day in October 1986, however, could have shaken that faith.

“That first day, we just waited, Mrs. C and I. Nakatingin lang kaming lahat [sa pinto] at walang pumasok! (We were just looking at the door and no one came),” Cayabyab recalls with a laugh.By word of mouth, students did start trickling in. And that trickle started to build into a steady stream when Cayabyab became one of the judges of the popular Ang Bagong Kampeon singing contest.


It was his stepping stone into the glittery world of television and eventually, the viewers got the idea that since Cayabyab was a judge in a singing contest, then his music school must be good. And it was.

SOLO EXHIBIT The musicalgenius is also a virtual artist. —RYAN CAYABYAB

SOLO EXHIBIT The musical genius is also a virtual artist. —RYAN CAYABYAB

After all, the Cayabyabs had high standards for their teachers and they know what to look for, being steeped in the UP College of Music themselves. Maestro Cayabyab was a professor for some 20 years while nurturing a career as a songwriter and an arranger at the same time. He bagged the TOYM (The Outstanding Young Men) award in 1978 for contemporary Filipino music, an award category that was created especially for him. The academically trained voice teachers, for example, do not teach the students to merely belt out songs like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. What they instead do is to enhance the “mechanism” that will allow them to sing better.

This means teaching them to breathe the right way to power their singing, how to warm up vocal cords and, of course, hit the right notes. With more lessons, the teachers can even help them extend their range or hold their notes longer.

Among the first to benefit from the school’s personalized lessons patterned after the extension school of the UP College of Music was Carlo Orosa, followed soon enough by other young singing hopefuls who also wanted to break into show business and hobbyists who just wanted to sing better during family gatherings or corporate parties.

Enrollment peaked at the height of the popularity of the trailblazing Ryan Ryan Musikahan show and the discovery of Smokey Mountain and 14K singing groups, allowing the school to take in more teachers, including Moy Ortiz and Annie Quintos of The Company.

The school adopted Cayabyab’s own approach to teaching music, which is more personal and less intimidating. At its core, it was about providing music education to those who do not necessarily want to take it up as a course in college or university.

“My style has always been to meet the students where they are and then bring them up to another level. But I tell them that we have to learn the basics,” says Cayabyab, who specialized in teaching music theory.

“Most of those who went to the school say that they like music, that they want to be a producer, an arranger but did not know where to start, so I tell them they have to understand first how music works,” he says. “The goal is not just about reading notes. Reading notes is just a tool to be able to write, to arrange better.”

They stayed at Sunvar from 1986 to 2006, briefly expanded to two branches in 1992 but eventually settled on just one branch at the Robinsons Galleria, which they moved to under a new name in 2007 since it was closer to their home in Quezon City.

That it has managed to survive despite challenges, such as the devastating COVID-19 pandemic Cayabyab attributes to their having hit a niche and loyal market.

‘MRS. C’ Emmy Cayabyab, school directress, at the opening of Ryan Cayabyab The Music Studio at Sunvar Plaza in 1986 —RYAN CAYABYAB

‘MRS. C’ Emmy Cayabyab, school directress, at the opening of Ryan Cayabyab The Music Studio at Sunvar Plaza in 1986 —RYAN CAYABYAB

Esteemed brand

In the beginning, they thought that they would be servicing students from the nearby schools in Makati, such as Don Bosco, Assumption and San Agustin. But while there were some students who did come from these schools, what they actually got more of were music enthusiasts from as far as Laguna who were attracted by his name.

For them, the name Ryan Cayabyab meant excellence in music and they were willing to pay for the lessons.

These days, he says the market has also extended to include senior citizens—retired professionals who now have the time and also the energy to pursue their lifelong dream of performing in front of a crowd.

Professional singers such as Celeste Legaspi also drop in to brush up on their technique and keep the mechanism in top shape for the concert grind.

“Like an athlete, you have to keep practicing because when you stop, the muscles become less flexible. It is the same with vocal muscles and these are very fine muscles,” he says, “So that is also what we teach, how to preserve your voice.”

The consistency and the quality of their music lessons, and providing the market with value for money, have kept Cayabyab music school alive for 37 years, with the Cayabyab children Krina and Toma pitching in when they can.

Cayabyab (now 69 while his wife is 62 years old) does not spend as much time anymore helping run the school, thus giving him more time for his other artistic pursuits, such as painting, a passion that he picked up again during the pandemic. His first solo exhibit called “Tunay na Ligaya” runs from Oct. 21 to Nov. 5 at the Power Plant Mall, featuring over 50 paintings.

The music school also earns from the rental of the rehearsal space that can easily fit in a 70 to 80-person choral group or just 40 if they need space for choreography. The space has proven to be popular among groups rehearsing for corporate or family events, all helping to keep the cash registers ringing.

“Every year, we ask each other: May pera pa ba tayo? (Do we have enough money?),” says Cayabyab. Fortunately, while there were bad years such as the pandemic, there were more than enough peaks to make up for the valleys, keeping the music school firmly in the black.

Which is just as well because the music school is more than just a business for them. It is a safe and productive space not just for the students but for the music teachers as well, freelancers who consider the school their home base.

For the Cayabyabs, it is their avenue to share their knowledge and talent with new generations of Pinoy music lovers.

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More than a business, The Music School of Ryan Cayabyab is a mission, an avenue to be of service to a greater community of Filipinos who love music.

TAGS: artist, Exhibit, music

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