To the many who admire the virtuoso pianist, Ingrid Santamaria, she is the quintessential lady of the old world, where elegance, refinement and aristocracy of talent mattered and was a way of life, especially among those who made up the so-called rarefied circles of society. It would thus seem to many that her days on the stage performing before enthralled audiences have seen their end.

They would not be entirely wrong as Ingrid, as she is fondly called by friends and her fans, had only a few moons ago declared that she had finally retired. To cap her career, she performed in a farewell concert in her hometown, Cebu City, where she not only grew up and pursued her initial musical education under the tutelage of her mother, the famous piano professor, Pilar Blanco Sala, one of the first graduates of St. Scholastica’s College under Sister Baptista Battig, but also the place that she had returned home to in the 1990s and settled in for 10 years to found and nurture the Cebu Youth Symphony Orchestra and Peace Philharmonic Orchestra — this under the auspices of the Sala Foundation which she chaired.

Ingrid with youthful Cebu Combined Orchestras, products of the Sala Foundation’s ‘10 Year Orchestra and Music Development Program’ which she chaired.


That was not to be her last concert, though, for Ingrid, despite her protestations, acceded to the request of an old friend, the famous dermatologist Dr. Vermen Verallo-Rowell, who asked her to perform just one more time at the Makati Medical Center auditorium for a fund-raising project. In that well-attended concert, Ingrid played Tschaikovski’s “Concerto in B Flat Minor,” proving that in her senior year, her talent had not diminished.

In July this year, former Sala Foundation scholars, violinist Prof. Reynaldo Abellana and his flutist wife Geraldine, led a party of a dozen young musicians who made a 1,100-kilometer land trip from Cebu to Laguna to visit their benefactor, mentor and discoverer. Together with the ISS Chamber Orchestra, consisting of the second and third generation musicians descended from the foundation’s 10-year Orchestra and Development Program (1991-2000), she played and recorded the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 2.

When Ingrid talks to her friends and former pupils about having advanced in years, they can only disagree, for the lady has remained beautiful as she has always been, just as adept at the musical instrument that brought her fame, and as pleasant, articulate and socially engaging.


Reaching out to worldwide audience

My recent visit with the beautiful, graceful and soft-spoken Ingrid (whom I call tita) has been occasioned by her desire to share with the DAILY TRIBUNE  and its readers from various parts of the world the good news that all her works and everything about her, as her fans and admirers would care to know, may all be found in her updated YouTube channel, The 3rd Dr. Ingrid Sala Santamaria
— BEST OF, which may be accessed exactly as The 3rd Dr. Ingrid Sala Santamaria — Best of

In this channel, which contains all her major performances, Ingrid reaches out to her worldwide audience “because I would like to share my own interpretations of the various classics, as much as inspire our young musicians to pursue their dreams because it is possible to achieve them, as I have achieved them through the years by constantly playing and listening to the masters.” Interestingly, Ingrid has always been featured in various media including television, radio, newspapers and magazines, and this YouTube channel brings her even closer to classical lovers who live thousands of miles away from the Philippines.

It had been quite a wonderful journey for Ingrid who, in 1978, was presented as the first piano soloist in what eventually became a weekly classic music series, broadcast live nationally, from Manila’s famed Luneta Park, called “Concert at the Park.” From her live performances, she transcended mass media trends, adapting to the latest audio-visual technology that would bring her to the homes and bedrooms of classical music enthusiasts.

She recalled that this personal initiative to preserve, as it were, “the highlights and milestones of my career started when I was recording the audio of my concerts and rehearsals on open-reel tape recorders and then cassettes, playing them back for personal assessment, thus providing me with a handy learning tool.

“The big jump came when recording of my performances was made possible with audio and video via Betamax, and then VHS tapes. Now I was able to preserve them in full, for posterity.”

From 1991 to 2001, this audio-video documentation expanded further, as performances and activities were recorded during the “10-year Orchestra and Music Development Program,” which Ingrid founded, coordinated and nurtured through the Cebu Sala Foundation which she herself chaired. Their numerous concerts became special features aired over nationwide television, “enabling us to not only expose and share our musical development and artistic endeavors but, hopefully, also to inspire and instill in our countrymen, a knowledge and appreciation of classic music and its importance in everyone’s daily lives,” she explained.

It wasn’t long when the young musicians who underwent the rigorous training were “ready to form a full classic music orchestra — the Cebu Youth Symphony Orchestra — and this was followed five years later by the formation of the Peace Philharmonic Philippines.”


Vintage solo performances

In time, Ingrid felt the inner call to return to her performing career and embarked on a two-piano Education Performance Program — lasting for the next 15 years — called the Romantic Piano Concerto Journey, focusing on world-famous concertos from the Romantic Period of Music, “the music that has always been my main vehicle for performance. I played the piano soloist part on these twice-yearly tours, while the orchestra part was played on the second piano by my life-long friend and mentor, Professor Reynaldo Reyes.”

Through it all, Ingrid had the assistance of a good friend and collaborator, David Brass, a videographer who, for the last 20 years, had recorded about 100 concerts that he uploaded to Ingrid’s YouTube channels through time. “Our first meeting was in Villa Escudero when I had a concert there,” Ingrid recalled. “He was doing the video for my five concerts that were sponsored by Don Ado Escudero, and after that, I asked him if he wanted to join me in my concerts all over the country. He was free-spirited and had more time to join me, so that’s how he became my permanent videographer.”

Ingrid shared, “While my first two channels continue to rake in views for their thousands of uploaded videos, this channel you are on now is made up of a special selection, organized in a dozen clearly labeled Sections in Playlists according to topic, making it very easy to surf to your heart’s content, these tributes to Classic Music including, some of my important vintage solo performances, coffee table books, tour documentaries, interviews, personal memorabilia and studio CD recordings.”

Friendship with the First Lady

Indeed, for this lady who has seen the passing of time as a famous concert pianist, it has indeed been a long way from when the then First Lady, Imelda Romualdez Marcos, who, when she realized that Ingrid had turned her back on her music to concentrate on teaching Spanish at the International School Manila, had prodded her to continue playing “not just for yourself, but for the Filipino people and your country.”

Soon, she was playing in Malacanang Palace, at the Cultural Center that Mrs. Marcos founded and even abroad to entertain international dignitaries at Philippine receptions. “I have had a long, happy life and career as a musician and I thank the Lord for his blessings. I must make special mention of the former First Lady, Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos, who gave me my many breaks. I have performed in Malacanang during state visits, and I consider myself fortunate to have performed before presidents, royalty and statesmen of world renown,” Ingrid recounted proudly.


Dr. Ingrid’s new YouTube Channel

Once again, Ingrid extended her invitation to watch her on YouTube. “Altogether, modesty aside, I think we have — though far from complete — an impressive body of work uploaded here as well as, on the original ‘Ingrid Sala Santamaria’ YouTube Channel and on the ‘Dr. Ingrid Sala Santamaria’ YouTube Channel.

“It gives me great pleasure, to invite one and all, to explore and subscribe to our new Youtube Channel: ‘The 3rd Dr. Ingrid Sala Santamaria — BEST OF.’”

She concluded, “I believe that YouTube has been, is and will be a strong force in the simple flow of my musical life and its meaning in trying to share its benefits and joys with the world.”

Ingrid playing Rachmaninoff Concerto #2 recently at Laguna Music Room with Prof. Reynaldo Abellana leading the ISS Chamber Orchestra.
Madam Imelda Marcos unveils the Dr. Ingrid Santamaria CD series with Natalia Escaño, granddaughter of the virtuoso pianist.