Yeng Constantino flew to Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental as one of the mentors in the recently concluded 3rd Elements Singing-Songwriting Camp. But in the four days she spent at the “music boot camp,” where some of the country’s finest musicians gathered to educate 60 aspirants, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter couldn’t help but feel like a beginner hungry to learn more.
“I was there as a mentor, but honestly, I felt I was one of the campers,” she told the Inquirer. “I listened to lectures and took notes, did vocalizations and participated in songwriting exercises. I returned to Manila inspired and more knowledgeable about my craft.”
She added: “I was motivated to get out of my comfort zone; to read more and explore new things.”
Organized by 7101 Music Nation, the annual music camp aims “to bring together aspiring and professional singer-songwriters, and learn from one another in a series of workshops, group presentations and breakout sessions,” according to its website. The 60 campers were chosen via online screenings and live auditions.
“It was overwhelming,” Yeng added. “You’ll see that even the other mentors, who are also some of the biggest stars in the biz such as Chito Miranda (Parokya ni Edgar), Aia de Leon (Imago) and Raimund Marasigan (Sandwich) would raise their hands to ask questions. We all learned from each other.”
Yeng also said that being in the camp brought back memories of her experience in ABS-CBN’s reality talent show “Pinoy Dream Academy,” where she won the grand prize in 2006.
But more than the technical aspects of music, the thing Yeng was most thankful for was how the camp revitalized her passion for music. “When you’re already in the industry, things start to feel like a routine. But seeing the campers who were eager to prove themselves reignited something in me,” she said.
The petite rocker chick said that lessons facilitated by the likes of Noel Cabangon and Elements artistic and camp content director Ryan Cayabyab were so engrossing, she became oblivious of being a mentor herself.
“I shared [with them] my experiences as a recording artist, and discussed alternative ways of making it in the industry such as joining reality contests,” she said.
Aside from giving a talk, Yeng, together with co-mentor Ebe Dancel, also led group exercises and activities. “Our group had six members, and we were tasked to write a novelty song. After giving our inputs to the campers, we left them for two hours to work on it. When we came back, the song was finished! Ebe and I only had to tweak its dynamics and sentence construction,” she related.
But the activity everyone looked forward to, Yeng said, was the nightly jam sessions. “We had Ebe, Gloc-9, Raimund, Jay Durias, Aiza Seguerra and Mike Villegas on the same stage. It was madness!” she exclaimed.
Aside from being able to play music with rock stars, Yeng pointed out that the jam sessions revealed the campers’ personalities and styles.
Was there any camper in particular that she found impressive? “I really liked Gos Abarquez and Keiko Necesario. Toto Sorioso made me cry with his song ‘Tayo-Tayo Lang.’ The camp was very diverse—there was jazz, pop, rock, funk, everything.”
Asked what advice she gave to the aspiring musicians, Yeng said: “I just told them (to) write, write, write…don’t stop writing songs.”
Overall, being a mentor was both humbling and heartening for Yeng. “I know I still have a lot to learn and improve, but they chose me to share my knowledge with the campers.”
“I was nervous when I got on the stage to sing,” she said. “It’s a different feeling when the people watching you really understand music, and what you’re doing up there.”
Yeng excitedly revealed that next year she will be releasing her fourth album, which was produced by Raimund Marasigan. “We don’t have a title yet, but we’re done recording it. It will be essentially pop-rock, but with new influences from Kuya Raimund and guitarist Jessie Grinter.”
“The tracks are diverse, too. There will be heavy rock tunes, heartbreaking love songs and some chill-out songs as well. I’m excited,” she said.