Ejay Yatco started classical piano training at 5 years old and continued until he was 17. However, he did not pursue a musical degree in college but instead took up management engineering at the Ateneo de Manila University “for my father—because he’s an engineer.” But the theater bug had bitten him long before, and Ejay found a way to combine his love for musicals with a tough college course. “Taking management engineering—that is not me. I hate math and it’s a math-heavy course. So I finished it, but I did professional theater while I was in college.”
The budding musical director worked with Ateneo de Manila University’s theater group Blue Repertory and got his break in professional musical theater almost like an ingénue stepping in for the lead role. “I replaced a keyboardist for the The Little Mermaid in my third year. That was the year I did my on-the-job training (OJT) so I got to taste both worlds professionally—the corporate world, which I had been prepped for, and theater. When I did my OJT, I got fat and really sad. When I was doing theater I loved it—every second of it. I had to schedule my classes from 7 am to 12 noon so that I could go to the theater and do the shows at night. It was really tiring and hard but I loved it.”
After college, Ejay became a struggling artist until “a producer, who had never done a theater show, wanted to do a musical out of the songs of the band Sugarfree, which became Sa Wakas. He wanted to do everything in two weeks—with low pay. At that time, I had just moved out and I needed the money. And I was heartbroken. So I took the job. And that show became a hit. We had three runs. That kind of kick-started my career.”
When asked about his influences, Ejay enthusiastically says, “Very Broadway! I had VHS tapes of The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, and the King and I growing up. And I rented Little Shop of Horrors a lot from ACA Video, the girl in the store said, ‘Do you want to rent something else? You’ve rented it so many times,’” he shares. But his first love, he said, is writing songs. “Every time I feel a surge of emotion, it comes out in song.” He has proven himself to be a prolific composer—he wrote the music for Guadalupe The Musical!
What’s next for this exuberantly talented guy?
“Musical theater is my first love. But I also write pop songs. And jingles to pay the bills.” He’s working on something new: “I have one about a bipolar musician. Contemporary. Very edgy compared to Guadalupe!” Further studies in music is also a possibility. “But right now, I’m always booked. So it’s hard. No more funerals. Unless it’s a friend’s. Knock on wood,” laughs Ejay.