Antonio J. Molina (1894-1980) was a National Artist of the Philippines. A musical great, he was considered the peer of two other great Filipino musicians Nicanor Abelardo and Francisco Santiago. His talent was prodigious: he was the first violincellist of pre-war times, a composer, conductor, pedagogue, and music administrator.
Molina was born into a musical family Quiapo, Manila on 26 December 1894. His father Juan Molina was an influential government official who also founded the Molina Orchestra. His first formal music lessons was violin and solfeggio under Celestino de Vera, then a member of his father's orchestra.
He attended the Escuela Catolica de Nuestra Padre Jesus Nazareno in Quiapo. He continued high school and college at San Juan De Letran where he obtained abachelor of arts degree in 1909.
Complying with his father's wishes he pursued a Bachelor of Laws initially at the UST. He transferred in his second year of law studies to the Escuela de Derecho de Manila, where he finished his studies. He attained a teacher's diploma in violincello at the UP Conservatory of Music in 1923.
His first composition was "Matinal" in 1912 and it is preserved in an unpublished volume "Miniaturas", Volume I. He did a professional work, as concert soloist, composer, and conductor in Hanoi, French Indochina (now North Vietnam). Back in the Philippines, he was appointed to teach harmony, composition, music history, and violincello at the UP Conservatory of Music]]. He was also the first Filipino composer who was invited to perform his works to Malacañang. From being a consultant in music education at the Bureau of Public Schools, he also became the dean of the Centro Escolar Conservatory of Music. He also founded the first chamber music group, the CEU String Quartet which was professionally organized and financed by its music school.
As a conductor, he lead the first performance in the Philippines of Bach's Christmas Oratorio presented by the combined Knox and Central Church Choirs (1947), as well as the first performance Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, presented by the Manila Little Theater Group at the FEU Auditorium (1950). He is also remembered as the conductor of the first televised choral concert, featuring the Centro Escolar University Conservatory Chorus, over then DZAQ-TV Channel 3 (1953).
As a composer Molina was credited with over 500 compositions, including:
- Hatinggabi, among earliest violin selections
- Malikmata, piano
- Ana Maria, zarzuela
- Misa Antoniana Grand Festival Mass
- Ang Batingaw, Kundiman- Kundangan; (chamber music)
- Kung sa Iyong Gunita, Pandangguhan; (vocal music)
- Amihan, Awit ni Maria Clara
- Larawan Nitong Pilipinas, among others.
Antonio Molina Married his first wife Pilar Siauingco when he was 23. They had 6 children: Rosita, holder of a music teacher's diploma in piano; Exequiel, also known as "Lito" a journalist who was also known as one of the country's best saxophone players; Antonio Maria, a graduate in composition and choral conducting in the United States, and who, according to Molina, was a far better musician than his father and Monserrat, who holds a bachelor's degree in nutrition, but is a pianist.
Molina remarried in 1965. His wife, Carmen Serrano, was a former student of his at Centro Escolar University. She holds a bachelor in music degree in music education and an AB degree from the Colegio de Santa Isabel.
He died on 29 January 1980 at age 86 and was honored with a state funeral befitting a Philippine National Artist.
Awards and Distinctions
- Diploma of Honor, Manila Music Lovers Society, 1940
- Commemorative medal and diploma, Department of Education, Health and Public Welfare, 1942
- “Choral Conductor of the Year” and “Music Researcher of the Year,” Music Lovers Society, 1949
- Honorary doctor of laws, honoris causa, CEU, 1953
- Araw ng Maynila Award in music, 1969
- Phi Kappa Phi Award and the UP Alumni Association Professional Award, 1972
- Republic Cultural Heritage Award, in 1965 and 1972
- National Artist of the Philippines, on 12 June 1973
- Samson, Helen F. Contemporary Filipino Composers. Quezon City: Manlapaz Publishing Company, 1976.
- CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art Volume 3. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994
- Cornejo, M.R. Commonwealth Dictionary of the Philippines. Manila, 1939.
- Galang, Zoilo. Encyclopedia of the Philippines Volume 9. Manila: P. Vera and Sons Company, 1936.
- Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography Volume 1. Quezon City: Filipiniana Publications, 1955.
- Online registry of Filipino Musical Artists, including partial discography Accessed on 1 May 2009
- National Commission on Culture and the Arts Profile of the National Artist Accessed on 1 May 2009
- Short biography by National Historical Institute Accessed on 1 May 2009