Bayani Mendoza de Leon, a well known Philippine-American composer, is also one of the foremost master teachers of the rondalla, a native string ensemble that is dying away in towns and cities of the Philippines. Bayani's rondalla involvement goes back to 1964 when he joined the world tour of the famed Filipinescas Dance Company as an all-around musician, including as a performer on the bandurria, the principal rondalla instrument. Since then, he has developed a passion for not only promoting the rondalla but also elevating it to a serious concert ensemble besides its traditional roles as accompaniment to folk dancing and singing. In 1968, Bayani wrote "Batong-Buhay" ("Living Stone"), a symphonic poem for flute, french horn, strings, and rondalla that was premiered by the Centro Escolar University Rondalla. This work won rave reviews and demonstrated successfully Bayani's ambitious aim for the rondalla. Another work of his, "Bahay-Bata"("Mother's Womb"), a chamber piece for bandurria, laud, clarinet, harp, and indigenous percussion, which won an international prize in 1976, furthered the same goal. Bayani has written some 400 arrangements and pieces for rondalla.
In San Diego, California where Bayani was initially based, he became a dynamic force in the development of several native ensembles including the rondalla, kulintang-basalan(bossed gong ensenble from southern Philippines) and gangsa-tup-paya(flat gong ensemble from northern Philippines). He founded and nurtured these ensembles as music director of the SAMAHAN Philippine Dance Company and the PASACAT Performing Arts Company. He has been awarded grants by the National Endowment for the Arts to conduct seminars and workshops on Philippine indigenous arts and culture.
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