Sylvia La Torre leads first FASO Excellence Awardees

by Hydee Abrahan

The Philippines’ national treasure, Sylvia La Torre, leads the first Filipino American Symphony Orchestra (FASO) Excellence in Music and Service Awards recipients who will be honored in a special gala on June 17 at the former Mary Pickford estate in Los Angeles.

La Torre and internationally acclaimed soprano Maria Christina Navarro will be honored for their outstanding accomplishments in music by FASO, the only Filipino symphony orchestra outside of the Philippines, in “A Night of Symphony – Excellence Awards Dinner and Gala.”

Excellence in Service awardees – musician and teacher Cecilia A. Coo-Cruz and accountant and former FASO board member Titus Verzosa – will be recognized for their valuable contributions to the orchestra, whose members come from various professions of the Filipino American community with a variety of musical background experiences.

Maria Christina Navarro

FASO’s first ever gala promises to be an exciting evening on the beautiful estate of Mary Pickford, the original America’s Sweetheart and a pioneering woman in Hollywood. She co-founded United Artists studio, was one of the original founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and was one of the first women producers in Hollywood. Pickford’s majestic home is now owned by Edwin Raquel, a FASO board member, and his family.

“A Night of Symphony…” will raise much-needed funds to sustain FASO, a non-profit organization, and its music education and outreach programs. Throughout the year, FASO conducts workshops, classes and recitals, especially for aspiring young talents in voice and music instruments.

The orchestra, under the baton of conductor and musical director Robert “Bob” Shroder, has been giving acclaimed concerts that highlight Filipino musical works and showcase Filipino American musicians and artists.

To keep the orchestra as a vital non-profit entity dedicated to presenting the Filipino musical heritage and nurturing young talents, FASO needs to raise funds on a constant basis.


The night’s tribute to the four awardees will spotlight their achievements and generous volunteer service that inspire current and future generations of Filipino Americans.

La Torre, having begun performing at the age of five in 1938 in Manila, will celebrate her 80th year in show business in 2018. She is the first soprano to successfully break through pop culture in the Philippines. In fact, she is the first Filipino artist to enjoy a hugely successful career in all major entertainment fields in the Philippines: radio, television, record, stage and film.

Navarro has given recitals, opera performances and performed with orchestras around the world which were met with thunderous applause and cheers and earned glowing reviews. She has performed with top opera companies and orchestras. She is a former member-soloist of the Philippine Madrigal Singers, UP Filipiniana Dance Group and the Asian Institute for Liturgy and Music.

Cecilia A. Coo-Cruz is a seasoned violinist who has played for various orchestras, chamber groups and alternative bands and has collaborated on various recordings. She has been an integral part of FASO since its inception in 2008. In addition to playing with FASO, Coo-Cruz devotes countless hours to assist the orchestra in various volunteer capacities.

Titus M. Verzosa is a Certified Public Accountant, presently working as a senior tax manager at DeMera Cameron, LLP, an accounting firm in Fresno, California. With his love for music, Verzosa volunteered his tax and accounting services in forming FASO as a non-profit organization. When FASO was incorporated in 2013, he was invited to sit on the Board of Directors and to assume the position of the Treasurer. He served on the FASO Board until 2015.

Titus Verzosa

FASO will serenade guests as they savor Pinoy cuisine prepared by chefs Clinton Nuyda and Nanette Sicat.

In addition, guests will have the opportunity to bid and win unique live and silent auction items, including a week’s stay at an apartment on Champs-Élysées in Paris; a stay at the Handumanan estate in Kalibo, Aklan, with complimentary river cruise and sightseeing to coincide with the popular Ati-Atihan Festival, and a stay in world-famous Boracay; and a chance to conduct FASO, no less.

Another treat will be the Rigodon de Honor, the traditional Filipino dance by couples.

The exciting gala is sponsored by Bank of Hope, Pacific Western Bank, Silver Saddle Ranch & Club, F&W Foodservices and Supplies, Kanstul Musical Instruments, Philip Stein Global Filipino Watch, Image Spa, Island Pacific Seafood Market, Ishkaster Media, Events by Sandy, LBC, Perfect Energy, G.K. Skaggs, Leelin Bakery & Café, Nautilus Brand, Ramar Foods International, San Antonio Bakery, Unistar Foods, Inc., Partyworks, Etc. and Print Hub USA.

For inquiries, contact FASO board members Rocio Nuyda, the gala’s chairperson (818-602-3214, rocio@msn.com), or Jose Luis Garcia (310-936-2988, jl.garcia@aol.com). More details are also available at www.fasogala.org.

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