Acclaimed Kagay-anon classical music composer Niño Cesar Borromeo Tiro has parlayed an NCCA grant into the first album of his chamber and classical works.

Tiro is a grantee of the NCCA’s 2022 Competitive Grants Program from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) by virtue of his Ani ng Dangal Award given during the 13th Philippine Arts Festival for his piano composition Phantasie für Ludwig which was performed by concert pianist Susanne Kessel for Volume 9 of her global composition project 250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven and which quickly  became a crowd favorite during Kessel’s concerts and promotional tours in 2019.

Ani ng Dangal (Harvest of Honors) is an organizational award given by the  NCCA to a natural-born Filipino artist who reaped top honors in international events in any of seven art disciplines (Architecture and Allied Arts, Cinema, Dance, Dramatic Arts, Literary Arts, Music, Visual Arts including Multi-Disciplinary Arts).

First Oeuvre

Tiro parlayed his grant under the Creative Performances and Publication of Existing or Original Music category and performances into his project: NIÑO TIRO: A COMPILATION OF CHAMBER AND ORCHESTRAL WORKS which was approved in November 2021 by the National Committee on Music (NCMusic), under the Subcommission on the Arts (SCA), one of the 19 national committees of the NCCA.

“The National Committee on Music, en banc, chooses those who will be given grants depending on their proposals. The fact that a Kagay-anon won in an international composition competition, amongst so many entries, is a testament that he is good in what he does,” said Maria Austregelina E. Alfornon, NCM Secretary.

End of Recording (Day 1) at Sounds Kradle Recital Room (L-R) Gina Medina, Nenen Espina, Niño Tiro, Mary Anne Espina (Photo: Ena Tiro)

“Unfortunately, not too many people know of this competition, nor have come across Tiro’s works. We, in the committee, always encourage people outside of Manila to be part of NCCA’s competitive grants. We are more than happy to award Tiro this grant, and we are looking forward to the publication of his works,” she added.

The recording sessions were done at the Sounds Kradle, Quezon City, Manila, om June 1 and 2, 2022, through CEO Reginald Tan and audio and video recording by classical specialist Holland Lou Buela.

End of Recording (Day 2) at Sounds Kradle Recital Room (L-R) Emil Wright, Ena Tiro, Mary Anne Espina, Niño Tiro, Anjo Inacay, Nico Echague, Holland Lou Buela (photo: Ena Tiro)

The eminent musicians who participated in the recordings included  Gina Medina Perez (violin), Nenen Espina (soprano), Anjo Inacay (cello), and Mary Anne Espina (piano).

Produced by TWT (Tiro-Wright-Tiro) with himself, Emil Wright, and Ena Tiro, the team aims to have its premier presentation by the end of October 2022.

The artists getting ready for another recording session at the Sounds Kradle Inc. Recital Room.
(photo courtesy of Reginald Tan)

“My project aims to promote and preserve local art forms and cultural expressions through my music,”Tiro said. “ It will be an art rendezvous that allows new generations to appreciate the value of original Filipino Classical music to sustain cultural identity and expand knowledge of our musical lineage.”

“I aim to create awareness to help rouse budding composers in the Philippines that through their music, they can express and inspire our society,” he added.

The Artist

A true-blue Kagay-anon, Tiro was born and raised in Cagayan de Oro and started piano lessons when he was five.

Among his mentors were the late concert pianists and composer Lino Abrio and Anita Nita Velez Abrogar-Quinto.

Tiro was already flexing his musical chops even in school, graduating with High Honors in Bachelor of Music, Major in Music Education, Piano Principal at Lourdes College, and Magna Cum Laude at the Liceo de Cagayan University Conservatory of Music, Theater and Dance where he was mentored by world-renowned Composer/Conductor Prof. Horst-Hans Bäcker for his Bachelor of Music in Composition.

Prof. Horst Hans Bäcker (right) with Niño and Ena Tiro.

“In my decades of teaching Niño is my best composition student. I am therefore not surprised at his excellent compositions and I am very proud of the successes he has already achieved,” Prof. Bäcker notes.

Not confining himself to classical music, Tiro has indulged in an eclectic mix of music genres such as  rock, blues, and jazz. He plays electric bass as a professional session player in various local bands, and as the Principal Double Bass Player of the Cagayan de Oro Symphony Orchestra under the baton of conductor Prof. Bäcker.

He describes his music as anachronistic, eccentric, eclectic, and outright melodic. Heralded as a  “composer born in the wrong time,” his music is described as “Neo-Classical and Neo-Romantic with a dash of the modern idiom.”

In 2004, his band’s song was a radio hit and was #1 for eight weeks on the local airwaves. He also worked as an OFW in Guam as The Life Teen Music Director of Santa Barbara Catholic Church.

Three of his works (Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in D minor, Soundtrack for the Lucid Dreamer, Sonata for Clarinet and Piano) are now part of eScholarship Contemporary Music Score Collection, which is an open access publishing platform backed by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Niño Tiro with good friends and colleagues Tullio Vidmar and Cipriano “Zip” de Guzman.

In 2021, he co-wrote the soundtrack with Italian Violinist Tullio Vidmar for the restored 1911 Italian Silent film Pinocchio.

In 2022, his works were accepted for publication by the music publisher Universal Edition (UE) whose catalogue encompasses over 30,000 items ranging from the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, through the Second Viennese School and onto the post-war modern music composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio and Pierre Boulez and today’s contemporary music composers Wolfgang Rihm, Georg Friedrich Haas, Friedrich Cerha, to name a few.

UE is inseparably linked with the great composers and musical developments of the 20th and 21st centuries and  has evolved into a future-oriented publishing house serving many of contemporary musical life’s most creative talents.

Classical music lovers can hear more of Tiro’s music in his social media accounts on Facebook ; Spotify, YouTube; and  Universal Edition.

Tiro currently teaches Piano/Composition Music at the Liceo Conservatory of Music, Theatre and Dance, where he also serves as the Academic Chair of the Conservatory.

“Niño Cesar Tiro is not just a composer par excellence but a well-respected, team-player and professional colleague,” said Cipriano “Zip” de Guzman, Tiro’s multi-awarded colleague at the Conservatory more famously known as The Filipino Baritone. “ He is generous in sharing his artistry to his students as well as his ideas to his colleagues. His selflessness makes him a good team-player and academic chairman.”


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