Pete Impresses David Foster & Friends
MONDAY, 21 DECEMBER 2009 22:47
Pete Avendaño and Charice singing The
Prayer at Handog ng FASO sa Pasko.
Photo by Benny Uy
One of the most applauded numbers in the Dec 6 Christmas Concerto, Handog ng FASO sa Pasko, was the duet of Charice with Christopher "Pete" Avendaño, in their soulful rendition of David Foster’s hit song The Prayer.
Little did Pete know that just three days after the concert, he would be performing the same number with Charice –together with the "Hit Man" himself, David Foster!
Pete can’t believe what happened, which he described to Asian Journal as the most amazing Christmas gift of his life. Here, Pete shares his exciting story.
"It started in the morning of Dec 9, the Wednesday after the concert. When I opened my Facebook account, there were messages from friends that Charice’s mother, Raquel, was looking for me. She posted a message on her Twitter account, requesting for contact info of Pete Avendaño. I didn’t know if it was a hoax or what. But soon after, I got a call from the secretary in Our Lady of Loretto Elementary School where I work, telling me that Charice’s mom, Raquel, has called the office and was really looking for me," Pete shared.
"Tita Raquel did call me and asked if I was free that night to sing The Prayer again with Charice. She said it was going to be in a private party in David Foster’s LA home. Actually, I had a rehearsal set for that night with the church choir, but I could cancel that for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So, of course I said yes, I can do the duet with Charice. Her manager, Mike, then called me and gave me the address of David Foster. They would be expecting me at 5:30pm."
"I was so excited the rest of the afternoon. Hindi ako mapakali. I kept saying, ‘Diyos ko – kakanta ako sa harap ni David Foster!’ Nakaka-nerbiyos. Ano susuot ko? Pinipilit ko pa nga si Bob Shroder na samahan ako eh but he was at work. I called up my family who were of course so happy for me."
"So, I went to the place at 5:30. At the lobby of the apartment – which looked like a plush hotel – I waited for Mike, Charice and her mom.When they arrived, we went up. Nagulat ako, kasi paglabas ng elevator, bahay na ni David Foster- buong floor kanya. So I was introduced to David and he even wrote down my last name on the palm of his hand in case he forgot it when he introduced me to his friends. Later, he said, ‘you’ll just be Pete for tonight.’ Nahirapan siguro i-pronounce ang Avendaño," Pete said with a laugh.
"Then, I learned that the holiday party was for the tenants in the building – mayayaman at mostly mga white Americans. One of them was the owner of California Pizza Kitchen.It was to be held at their lounge downstairs. David then went down before us and said he will just call if it’s time for us to sing. It was his surprise to the guests to have Charice sing for them."
"I was expecting that Charice and I would be able to rehearse before we did our number. Pero, wala. Maya-maya, tumawag na si David and we went down. Charice sang a few songs and then I went in for my number with her. David told the 50 or so people there that Charice would be singing his favorite composition, The Prayer, but she can’t sing it without someone to duet with her. And then he introduced me. Si David Foster mismo ang tumugtog para sa amin! After our song, everyone applauded enthusiastically. Tuwang-tuwa sila. And for me, the greatest compliment came from David himself who exclaimed – ‘Wow! And I just met this guy 20 minutes ago!!!’
Pete still can’t get over the praises of the guests in the party that night. "They told me that I have a big road ahead of me. Many asked where I was singing; what operas and shows I was part of. I told them, I am just a music teacher and a music director for a church. And they said, ‘tonight could be the night’; it can all change for you," recalled the humble tenor.
Pete said that the guests in the party expressed their appreciation more openly, something that Caucasians do more than Filipinos. He admitted, "Mas mahirap ma-please ang mga Filipinos. Marami kasing magagaling na Filipino artists. You have to be extra good to impress them. Umaapaw ang Pinoy sa talents eh."
After their performance, Pete was so grateful for the fact that David Foster himself even walked up to his car as he was about to leave, thanking him for coming. "We’ll do it again," he told Pete, which was music to the tenor’s ears.
Born in Manila to Chris and Bernardita Avendaño (who both love to sing), Pete recalls that he has been singing in front of people ever since he could remember. "Lagi akong pinapakanta ng father ko in front of our relatives. And when I was four, he brought me to Radio Veritas to sing in a show. Then, in elementary, I became a scholar in Angelicum School inside the Santo Domingo compound. I was a soprano-soloist in the Tiples de Santo Domingo (the oldest boys’ choir in the Philippines). Doon kami nakatira sa school. May bahay doon sa Santo Domingo which housed the boys being trained to sing. I only went home to my family during weekends," shared Pete.
From 1991-1993, Pete studied in St. James Academy in Malabon where he graduated from high school. Then, he decided to enter the seminary at the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Cotobato City. After 3 years, Pete wanted to further his music studies. "Ang plano ko talaga is to study music and then go back to seminary and be a priest. So, I went to the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music,’ said Pete. But God had plans for him, other than the priesthood.
While getting his degree of Bachelor of Music in Music Education, major in Voice from UST, Avendaño became part of the internationally-acclaimed University of Santo Tomas Singers. He toured extensively with the group during its 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001 international concert tours in Europe, North America, and South America. In 2000, he was a finalist in the National Music Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA) held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He was also a prizewinner in the Kundiman Fiesta competition in 1994. As a student of the UST Conservatory, Avendaño auditioned and became part of the Singapore Lyric Opera productions of Il Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana, Il Trovatore, and Macbeth held in Singapore.
Pete then went back to his alma mater, St. James Academy in Malabon, where he taught music for three years. He married Venice, who also loves to sing. Then in 2003, Pete immigrated to California with his family (He and Venice have three sons – Christian Christoff and Christer). He taught music at the Our Lady of Loretto Elementary School in Los Angeles where he also handles the children’s choir. He was instrumental in having the children’s choir nominated for the Music Achievement Awards in Arts 2006 by the Music Center Bravo Awards. Avendaño is also the music director of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Los Angeles.
Avendaño has mostly been busy as a music teacher and music director in church. But in 2008, he portrayed the lead role of Karim in the Filipino opera Karim at Jasmin held at the La Mirada Theater in Los Angeles. He also performed in a concert at St. Louis Missouri for the benefit of Gawad Kalinga. He is one of the founding members of the UST Singers Alumni in America and the Philippine Chamber Singers of Los Angeles.
He has recently finished his recording project – a collection of Philippine Art Songs dubbed as KUNDIMAN. "It’s just something I did for my lola," he said.
Last May, Pete was invited by the Filipino American Symphony Orchestra (FASO) to perform in its gala concert at the Wilshire/Saban Theatre. His outstanding performance impressed the audience and he was invited to guest again in the Christmas Concerto last Dec 6, where he sang The Prayer with Charice. And that duet paved the way for Pete’s singing for David Foster and friends. Members of David Foster’s management team were in attendance during the FASO event and witnessed Pete’s performance that evening.
"We are very happy for Pete," said Roger Oriel, chairman of the Asian Journal Foundation and co-founder of FASO, together with wife Cora and Lito Cruz. "This is really one of FASO’s missions - to provide an avenue for Filipino artists to showcase their talents" he added.
"My prayer now is that God will open more doors of opportunity for me to perform again with Charice and David Foster, and with other artists. Nagpapasalamat ako sa binigay ng Diyos na talento sa akin. I have been giving this talent to the churches where I do my ministry. But my passion has always been to perform on stage. I am so grateful to Asian Journal and to FASO –kila Roger and Cora Oriel and Bob Shroder – sa paniniwala nila sa akin, in their trust in me, and for the great opportunities they have given me, to sing with FASO," said Pete enthusiastically.
As he gets ready for Christmas and looks forward to the New Year with bright hopes, Pete can’t help but be grateful to the Lord for a wonderful 2009. He admits that everything that happened is from God, following His timetable. "Ang timing ng mga nangyayari sa buhay natin – sunod sa timing na gusto ng Diyos. Napaka-bait Niya sa akin," said Pete, yet another kababayan who has impressed David Foster and friends. (AJPress)