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Noelle Cassandra: Harpist, singer, songwriter

By Fides Camino
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Last updated 23:33:00 06/05/2009

MANILA, Philippines ? To be the country?s only harpist, singer and songwriter?at 26 years old?sounds amazing enough. Yet there is more to Noelle Cassandra than that. She also happens to be a woman of sophistication, beauty and strength.

?My mom said my first words were singing back the ?Our Father? because she used to sing it to me every night before I went to sleep,? says Cassandra. ?So after I sang it back, they thought, ?Ah this one?s musical.??

At the tender age of four, she began to play the harp through a program at the Vancouver Academy of Music. Her mom even had to tell a white lie?that she was a year older so she could be allowed to enter the program.

?It was always really my mom who pushed me into music and got me disciplined,? says Cassandra, who was born and raised in Vancouver. ?Because when you?re that young, you don?t really know what you want, so I?m thankful that my mom really guided me, forced me even, to pursue this.?

Cassandra had to wake up early to practice for 30 minutes before going to school. She also had weekly harp classes, classical training, and weekly kodaly (musical training for the ear).

Coming home

Then, when she was older, with just her harp (which she?s had for 12 years), her badminton racquet and her dog, Cassandra flew to the Philippines to try her luck in the local music industry.

?When I first moved here, I had nothing. I just came to try my luck.? And while she left behind a lot in Canada, ?it was worth it,? she says.

At first she wrote songs and got someone else to sing them, until she realized the best way for her to really connect with the audience and express her music was by singing her own songs.

?When I sing, I go back to the time I wrote it, to exactly how I felt that day, (to) who it was for, and what inspired it,? she says. ?Take a song I wrote for my mom. We were recording it for my first album, but the only person who could sing it would be me. You couldn?t call someone else to sing that for my mom. And that?s when I realized I love to sing my own songs.?

The other side of Noelle is not much different from any other 26-year-old Filipina. Despite her busy schedule, she still has time to go out with family and friends, to play badminton and to compete in tournaments.

?You make time for the people and things that are important for you,? she explains. She finds badminton fun and relaxing and says that, because she?s ?super competitive,? it?s a good release for her.

But her best form of relaxation still has something to do with music. ?Playing by myself and writing is what I really love to do often. I just sit there and write in the early morning.?


In the past four years, Cassandra has had quite a lot of achievements and recognitions. She has released her self-titled debut album under Dyna records. She has also worked with top performers in the country like Martin Nievera, Kuh Ledesma and even with international singers like Josh Groban. Her Valentine concert with Richard Poon and Willie Nepomuceno this year was a huge success.

?I?ve been really blessed with the right people at the right time, artists who?re willing to take me under their wing. I?m just so thankful for everything,? she says.

?It feels good because I?m doing something that I love and, at the same time, I?m paving the way for other musicians.?

She plans to release her second album and work with other artists who?ve inspired her, like Lea Salonga and Jose Mari Chan.

Cassandra is also the founder of the Noelle Cassandra Reach Out Club (NC ROCs). She holds weekly music classes for the girls of Marillac Hills in Alabang, Muntinlupa, teaching them to play the piano, sing and read musical notes.

?Marillac is a haven for young girls who?ve been abused, exploited or in trouble with the law. Four years ago we started out with twelve students, now we have 50 students from seven to 17.?

Two of her students recently surprised her by performing a song they wrote for her, titled ?Touch of an Angel.?

?Just to see them grow from (where they started) to writing their own songs and accompanying themselves is really... Wow,? she says.

Songs of inspiration are a part of Cassandra?s repertoire. Of the songs she?s written, a favorite is ?After the Rain,? which talks about perseverance and strength.

?I wrote it when I was feeling down, and when people hear it, hopefully it would help them, too, as it helped me.?

?There are two things that have helped me?prayer and passion,? she adds. ?Love what you?re doing and trust in God, trust that there is a destiny for you. When you feel down, keep praying. Just pursue it even if you feel like you can?t, because if it?s something you love, you should just keep doing it.?


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