“Dream big, for possibilities are endless”
by Lucille Nolasco Garrido
Some of Joy's young students
Mon & Joy Lazo
Tony Awards. Laurence Olivier Awards. The New York Innovative Theater Awards. These are only a few tributes given to exemplary artists, performers, and workers in the world of theatre. Here in Winnipeg, we have the Evie Awards, an annual theatre awards ceremony given in celebration and recognition of excellence in the Winnipeg professional theatre community.
Local singer, respected vocal coach, and ka-Pinay, Joy Lazo, was recently accorded an Honorary Evie Award. Each season the honorary awards recognize individuals who have made long-standing contributions to the theatre community in Winnipeg.
Pilipino Express (PE) recently caught up with Lazo who is currently busy with a new theatre project.
PE: Tell us how you felt when you found out you were an Evie awardee.
JL: I was happily shocked because I did not even know that I was nominated. I felt truly blessed and humbled.
PE: What does this award mean to you?
JL: It is an affirmation from among my peers that I am doing right and good. And of course, the nomination was supported by my former students and those who benefitted from my coaching.
PE: Let’s go back to your beginnings in the Philippines. When did your love for singing begin?
JL: I must have been singing inside my mom’s tummy. I have been singing since I could remember because we would normally wake up to old tunes while our parents would be dancing around the living room.
PE: How were you able to develop this love for singing?
JL: More seriously when I was attending the University of Santo Tomas and I was asked to take over as Musical Director for the Goldies Sing Out with about 120 members from the different colleges in the university. I did not feel I was ready, but my predecessor assisted me in the transition. And I just grew into it. Later on, I joined another group called the Sons and Daughters and trained with my brother Paul who was the Musical Director. However, I did not stay long as I was done school and had to go back home where I started to organize a youth choir in our parish.
After I got married to my awesome husband, Ramon, he encouraged me to pursue my love for singing and joined a band called Prelude with Zion Zuniga, the older brother of Nonoy Zuniga and four other guys from Ateneo. After Prelude I organized the Limelight Band and we started performing in hotels until I decided to do it solo under Joy Lazo and Friends. With my husband, we also organized some youth in our community into choirs and a basketball team, which we saw was a good alternative for them to hanging out in the streets. St. Anthony Choir and St. Anthony Basketball Team. (St. Anthony being the patron saint of the lost.)
PE: How were you able to balance family life with a singing career?
JL: In the Philippines, it was easier because you can have some household helpers and I try to make sure that family is priority. My Mom would stay with Ramon and the kids whenever I had to perform outside of the country. Here, the big support came from my husband Ramon and our children. They were my loudest cheer leaders.
PE: Tell us about some of the highlights in your singing career in the Philippines.
JL: I performed in some of the hotel chains like the Holiday Inn, Philippine Plaza, Regent of Manila, Manila Garden, and a few stints in Singapore. My band was invited as the front act for Patti Page and Bobby Vinton at the New Latin Quarter in Tokyo, and for the Supremes in Kuwait Hyatt Regency for a New Year’s show.
PE: When you immigrated to Canada, were you able to pick up where you left off easily or were there any challenges along the way?
JL: Yes, we were never exempt from the newly landed immigrants’ struggles, but we did not look at the burdens. Instead, we focused on joining the church and organizing a youth choir. I had a short stint at the Holiday Inn downtown but did not stay long as it was hard with kids. We would take them to the hotel – luckily I got a room as one of the perks from the hotel. Kaya lang, ang hirap pag uwian na kasi nakakatulog sila doon, so karga-karga namin sila gabi-gabi. We were also active in the community, as I joined the Mabuhay Serenaders and volunteered with Magdaragat. At one point my husband and I led the Music Ministry of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services of Manitoba (CCRS), and I was also one of the fund-raising coordinators for the construction of the PCCM. Part of the campaign was to produce shows at the Pantages and Centennial Concert Hall using the many wonderful talents we have in our community. Truly a big stage to showcase local talents as well. I also volunteered and directed shows for ANCOP.
PE: You are known in the community as a voice coach for young people. How did this start?
JL: It started from the choir. I was asked by a mother to coach her daughter for the Tuklas Talino competition, and she became the champion. From there it just snowballed. I started in the early ‘90s and the rest is history.
PE: Have you ever turned away a potential student or said no to a parent?
JL: Yes, I did. I normally start accepting kids for lessons after an assessment. So, the kid and the parents have an idea how lessons would be conducted. If I see that the kid is not ready – due to a short span of attention or if the kid is not that interested, or still too young – I would not take them kasi sayang lang pera ng mga magulang. Parang expensive babysitting! On occasions I would also advise the parents to let the a kid quit lessons kasi talagang hindi interested ang bata. I just tell the kid or parents that when they really want to do it, the kid should be the one to call me and I will give another chance. It is important for me that when we embark into vocal training that it is a win-win.
PE: Are you still teaching and coaching students?
JL: The past five years I have been going slow. Doon sa hindi ko mapahindian, I would still do it.
PE: You are also a performer here in Canada? What are some of the most memorable performances you’ve done or productions you’ve been in?
JL: I have been blessed and fortunate to be an alumnus of Rainbow Stage. I started in the ensemble for Damn Yankees in 1994, as Bloody Mary in the 1997 production of South Pacific and as Lady Thiang in The King and I in 2004. I was invited for different collaborations with other mainstream groups as a performer, especially for charitable events.
PE: Do you still have anything you want to accomplish or a dream role to play in terms of your singing and performing career?
JL: Nothing much really. Only when opportunity knocks, and I am given the chance and if my body and voice can keep up.
PE: What are you busy with currently?
JL: I am doing a project, a workshop called Ma-Buhay: Filipinos Singing for Their Lives. It is a musical created by Joseph Sevillo with music and lyrics by Joseph Sevillo and Josh Caldo. Rainbow Stage is taking this on and we hope to put the musical on stage in the very near future. I am also busy still doing some volunteer work with the Ethnocultural Council of Manitoba, Pinays Manitoba, keeping the Highlights Performing Group active and as a member of the Board of Directors of Rainbow Stage.
PE: Is there anything else you’d like to impart to our readers?
JL: We are all actors in this world in a big drama called life. If we are given the talent, we should hone it, share it. I am not claiming any of the successes of those I have taught or coached, but I am just proud of them for what they have achieved and happy for to be a part of their journey. They each have worked so hard to get to where they are now. I feel blessed that over many years we have remained friends, and even family.
Let us try our best to be part of the solution and not become the problem, especially during these very trying and dire times for our world. Always be grateful, humble, and loving. Know that we are all on the same journey but walking on different paths. What I would always say to my students, to my own kids, and to myself: I am the only one who can limit me. Possibilities are endless. Do not place yourself in a box. Dream big, focus, commit, give back, take responsibility, and admit to your mistakes. For from mistakes, we develop wisdom. Keep looking forward and continue to learn. There are always new things. Never give up. Most important, know that you are loved as a child of God. He will never leave you alone. Believe.
The St. Anthony Church Choir in Quezon City
Joy in the early '80s performing at the Manila Garden Hotel
Pinays MB Corner features Filipino women who can be role models for other women. If you know of any Filipino woman whose inspiring life story can be featured in this column, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Send in her name, a brief description of her inspiring life story, and contact information.