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REYNALDO REYES:

HIS PEDAGOGICAL LEGACY

Natalie Williams
Dr. Aaron Ziegel
HONRS 499: Honors Thesis
June 29, 2017
1

Dr. Ziegel,
Thank you for pushing me to think.

Prof. Reyes,
You never saw me come of age in my skill,
but you believed I could,
and this has always been what mattered most.

Father,
Youve melted my fear to faith.
2

Contents

Introduction 3

Flexibility in Approach for Each Student 17

Your Practice Coach 23

Immense Dedication of Time 26

Challenging the Current Ability Level 28

Unfailing Belief in Your Potential 31

Potential Weaknesses to Reyes' Approach 34

Application of His Teaching Principles 36

Conclusion: Man Behind Mindset 40


3

Trying to avoid a silent walk to master class with Towson Universitys late piano

professor, Reynaldo Reyes, I rummaged around for a decently intellectual question fit for

hallway conversation. Prof. Reyes, why did you choose to do music? I waited for my piano

professors deeply contemplated answer, one refined and strengthened over his many decades of

experience.

He paused, leaning on his cane: You know, I never thought of it. More contemplative

silence. I guess it has always come so easy. I was shocked. He explained there were challenges

of course, but nothing that could not be overcome. After researching Reyes pedagogical

mindset, I now understand why he gave this answer. His view of how music and people function

explains this simple response that Thursday morning.

Reynaldo Reyes was an extraordinary teacher, a world-renowned performer and longtime

piano professor at Towson University. Though not all aspects of his teaching are unique to him,

the combination of his teaching approaches coupled with his personal character and beliefs about

learning constitutes its significance. As one of his piano performance students at Towson

University, I believe his passing in 2016 was a loss for the musical world and losing his teaching

philosophy would create an even greater deprivation. Thus, I aim to present and explain the five

principles of his pedagogical methods. Musicians, whether teachers, students, or performers, will

find his music-related advice helpful. Teachers, regardless of their field, will gain insight on

increasing their effectiveness and reaching students of varying ability levels, ages, and

backgrounds. Students will better understand their responsibility in the learning process and how

to increase their ability to grow more in their chosen discipline. On the whole, musicians,

teachers, and students will greatly benefit from learning and applying Reyes philosophies on

viewing challenges and personal ability.


4

Information for this project was largely gathered through published materials about

Reyes and my interviews of his friends, family, colleagues, and students. The majority of

interviewees knew of Reyes through Towson University, whether they were his colleagues or

students. Some took lessons with him during their childhood before studying with him at

Towson, such as Kay Shin, Sarah Kooken, and Elizabeth Borowsky-LeBlanc. However, musical

family members, such as his wife, Christina Giorgilli Reyes, and great niece, Anabelinda de

Castro, were interviewed along with a former Peabody classmate of his (and then later Towson

University colleague), Zoltan Szabo. Most of the 25 interviews were conducted in person, with a

recorder to aid in note taking, while some were over phone or through email. Many interviews

were transcribed onto paper for my personal use in analyzing the content. His teaching

approaches and personal characteristics combined with a myriad of lively stories explaining the

former information were compiled to create a testament of a teacher who dedicated his life to

others and music, as Anabelinda de Castro writes, He loved the Philippines, family and friends

were very important to him, and he lived for the piano!1

Table 1. Description of People Interviewed for the Project

Name Date of Relationship to Initial Period of Current Occupation

Interview Reyes Personal

Contact with

Reyes


1
Anabelinda de Castro (past Towson University undergraduate student), email message to
author, 20 February 2017.
5

Alston, 9/21/16 Towson U. Late Career Musician/ Music Teacher

Bryan Student (2000-2016)

Ballou, 4/17/17 Towson U. Late Career Musician/Professor of

David Colleague Jazz/Commercial Studies

Barczyk, 9/28/16 Towson U. Mid Career Musician/Professor of Cello

Cecylia Colleague (1982-2000)

Barrett, 10/19/16 Towson U. Late Career Student

Carrie Student

Bellassai, 9/30/16 Towson U. Late Career Musician/Professor of

Marc Colleague Harpsichord/Early Music

Berlett, 3/10/17 Towson U. Early Career Musician/Music Teacher

Edward Student/Colleague (1962-1982)

Blackburn, 10/1/16 Towson U. Late Career English Teacher

Daniel Student

Borowsky- 11/30/16 Private and Mid Career Musician/Music Teacher

LeBlanc, Towson U.

Elizabeth Student

Buechner, 1/13/17 Private Student Early Career Musician/Professor of

Sara Davis Keyboard at Temple U.

Chang, 9/29/16 Towson U. Late Career Musician/Music Teacher

Jing Student

Crawford, 10/21/16 Towson U. Early Career Musician/Professor of

Lawrence Colleague Keyboard


6

de Castro, 2/20/2017 Private and Mid Career Musician/Music Teacher

Anabelinda Towson U.

Student/Family

Decker, 4/18/17 Towson U. Early Career Musician/Professor of

Michael Colleague Guitar/Music Industry

Dillon, 11/14/16 Towson U. Late Career Musician/Professor of

Christopher Colleague Piano/Theory and

Composition

Hayes, 11/15/16 Master classes as Early Career Dept. Chair/Professor of

Eileen Student/Towson History and Culture

U. Colleague

Hopkins, 3/31/17 Towson U. Mid Career Musician/Music Teacher

Muriel Student/Colleague

Kooken, 10/4/16 Private and Late Career Musician/Music Teacher

Sarah Towson U.

Student

Prabowo, 9/21/16 Towson U. Late Career Student/Music Teacher

Esti Utami Student

Reyes, 4/10/17 Towson U. Early Career Retired Professor/Music

Christina Student/ Teacher

Giorgilli Colleague/Family

Shin, Kay 12/1/16 Private and Late Career Student/Music Teacher

Towson U.
7

Student

Szabo, 1/24/17 Peabody Early Career Musician/Retired

Zoltan Classmate/

Towson U.

Colleague

van Kan, 10/20/16 Towson U. Late Career Student

Eliza Student

Whelan, 12/12/16 Towson U. Late Career Student/Music Teacher

Heather Student

Winter, 5/4/17 Another Late Career Musician/Student/Teacher

Scott Teachers Student

Witten, 1/13/17 Private Student Early Career Musician/Professor of Music

David at Montclair State U.

On December 12, 1933, in Manila, Philippines, Reynaldo Gutirrez Reyes was born to

Telesforo Reyes, mayor of Alitagtag, and Brigida Reyes.2 He spent his early childhood in

Alitagtag, located in the Batangas province of Luzon.3 Batangas shares with the Cavite province


2
Frederick N. Rasmussen, Reynaldo G. Reyes: Concert Pianist and Towson University Teacher
Performed around the World, Fostered Many Others Careers, obituaries, The Baltimore Sun, 29
February 2016; A Celebration of Life in Memory of Reynaldo Gutierrez Reyes, memorial
mass program, St. Matthew Catholic Church, 30 April 2016.
3
Rasmussen, Reynaldo G. Reyes; Christina Reyes, Reynaldo Reyes (1934-2016), ed. Sara
Davis Buechner, unpublished manuscript, last accessed 15 June 2017, online pdf,
http://saradavisbuechner.com/reynaldo-reyes-14-february-2016/#respond.
8

the commonality of farm and fishing villages.4 A geographical description of this area is given

when Sylvia Mayuga writes, There are three entry points into Batangas, one through the

Batulao Mountain Range in the north (on the Cavite border) a second one through the

agricultural town of Santo Tomas (on the Laguna border), and a third, perhaps the most thrilling,

down a steep dirt road separating Tagaytay from Talisay town.5 The Philippines, officially

called the Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelago located near Southeast Asia.6

Showcasing his trademark humor, he told the Towson Times, I grew up as an American and

didnt become a Filipino until 1946, referencing the period when his country was a United

States territory. 7

Fig. 1: Manila, located in the northern half of the Philippines.8



4
Sylvia Mayuga, Cavite and Batangas: Monuments to History, in Philippines, 3rd ed.,
contributions by Elizabeth Reyes, Marcus Brooke, Tony Wheeler, and Theon Banos Cross
(Hong Kong: Apa Productions, 1983), 164.
5
Ibid., 168.
6
Federal Research Division, Philippines: A Country Study, 4th ed., ed. Ronald E. Dolan
(Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1993), xv-xvi.
7
Loni Ingraham, Unfinished Symphony-Reynaldo Reyes Life Journey Reflects a Passion for
Music, and Learning, news, Towson Times, 24 March 2010.
8
Map from Theodore Gochenour, Considering Filipinos (Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press,
1990), ix.
9

Fig. 2: Center of Photo-Batangas Province, Philippines, located south of Manila on same


island.9

Part of a large family, he had two brothers and four sisters.10 His family bought a piano

when he was five.11 As his older sisters began to teach him a few piano concepts, they knew he

was ready for a professional teacher.12 With a family member, he would walk 17 kilometers each

way for his first piano lessons with Amanda Cabrera, sometimes having to wake up at three in

the morning.13 Reyes had perfect pitch, the ability to identify the note through its sound, and he

used to tell the story of how his perfect pitch aided in finding the familys lost chicken. Each


9
Mayuga and Yuson, Philippines, 319.
10
Ingraham, Unfinished Symphony.
11
Ibid.
12
Christina Giorgilli Reyes [CGR] (wife, colleague, and past Towson University undergraduate
student), interview with author, 10 April 2017, residential home, Lutherville, MD.
13
Interview with Reynaldo Reyes (part 1), YouTube video, 7:25, Elizabeth Borowsky-
LeBlanc interviewing Reynaldo Reyes, posted by Elizabeth Borowsky, 28 March 2016,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehZdze2f4S8.
10

chicken or rooster made a unique pitch collection. When one went missing, he knew it was

among the neighbors chickens due to its specific call.14 Though filled with many fond

memories, his childhood also contained fearful times, as Christina Giorgilli Reyes wrote:

During the wartime period of Japanese occupation, Mayor Reyes [Reynaldos father] was
forced into the uncomfortable position of negotiating favors on behalf of his
townspeople, but became a folk hero. Learning that the Japanese planned to burn
Alitagtag to the ground as they retreated in late 1944, the Major assisted in concealing his
townspeoples valuable possessions deep in the jungles of Batangas for safekeeping,
including the Reyes familys precious upright piano. It took six people to lift it.15

Beginning in his early adolescent years, Reyes musical training and experience

accelerated and broadened. At thirteen, he was accepted into the University of Santo Tomas

Conservatory of Music in Manila, Philippines, with Julio Esteban as his instructor.16 Reyes said,

My teenage years disappeared between piano lessons at 7 a. m., four hours at the conservatory,

four hours at the high school and studying for both followed by piano practice at 9 p.m. and,

finally, sleep[.]17 In 1951 at seventeen, he received his bachelor of music degree.18

A pivotal point of education came through a French Government Scholarship, enabling

him to begin studies at the Conservatoire Nationale Suprieur de Musique de Paris. Here he

received the Premier Prix du Piano along with many awards in chamber music and sight-

reading.19 Reyes used to tell the story of how he became officially accepted into the program

because he was unaware at first of the schools trial period. To fully enroll, he was given the

assignment of learning all Bachs prelude and fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier and all of

Chopins etudes by memory. The timeframe for completing this task was one summer, which he


14
CGR, interview.
15
Christina Reyes, Reynaldo Reyes (1934-2016), ed. Sara Davis Buechner.
16
CGR, interview.
17
Loni Ingraham, Unfinished Symphony.
18
Rasmussen, Reynaldo G. Reyes.
19
Christina Reyes, Reynaldo Reyes (1934-2016), ed. Sara Davis Buechner.
11

accomplished successfully. While at the conservatory, he studied with Marguerite Long and Jean

Doyen.20 In the United States, he earned his master of music degree and artists diploma in 1960

through the Peabody Conservatory of Music, studying under Mieczyslaw Munz and Leon

Fleisher.21 The scores he studied with at the Paris Conservatory have been requested by the

University of Maryland for placement in the International Piano Archives due to the fingerings

and notes the scores contain from the notable instructors there.22

Fig. 3. Teaching Ancestry of Reynaldo Reyes.23


20
Ibid.
21
Rasmussen, Reynaldo G. Reyes.
22
CGR, email message to author, 14 June 2017.
23
Lineage compiled from Oxford Music Online and Biography in Context.
12

Fig. 4: Music book from when he studied at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory
of Music (handwriting on top right corner of book). One reason he laminated his books with
personal photos was to encourage his students to return books they borrowed from him. This
item is part of the authors personal collection.
13

Reyes led a vibrant performing and teaching career, concertizing in a prolific number of

solo and collaborative concerts around the world, and [h]e was a prizewinner in many

prestigious international piano competitions, including the International Piano Competition of

Rio de Janeiro, the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud International Piano Competition in Paris,

and the Busoni International Piano Competition where he received the Silver Medal.24 He was

the Metropolitan Opera Company Regional Auditions accompanist for more than 20 years and a

piano professor at Towson University for more than 50 years.25 Christina Giorgilli Reyes writes:

In 1962, Professor Reyes joined the piano faculty of Towson University, where he taught
piano, chamber music, solfge, sight-reading and related music courses for more than a
half-century. He was a master teacher esteemed by all for his ability to inspire as well as
instruct. Many of his former students now perform and teach in the United States and
abroad and have won international piano competitions as well.26

He was the pianist of the Baltimore Trio for more than 30 years, collaborating with cellist

Cecylia Barczyk and violinists Zoltan Szabo and Jeffery Howard. Szabo described him as an

enthusiastic, instinctive artist with a giving personality.27 For repertoire projects, he loved

challenging himself with performing complete works, as shown when Giorgilli Reyes writes:

The wide-ranging sweep of his musical knowledge was evidenced through his marathon
concert performances of the complete Suites and Well-Tempered Clavier of J. S. Bach,
complete Sonatas and Variations of Mozart and Beethoven, complete Preludes and
Etudes of Chopin and Debussy, complete Sonatas of Prokofieff, comprehensive surveys
of music by Alkan, Poulenc, Rachmaninoff, and many others.28


24
Christina Reyes, Reynaldo Reyes (1934-2016), ed. Sara Davis Buechner.
25
Maryland Performing Arts Institute, Reynaldo Reyes, mdpai.org, posted 17 February 2016,
http://mdpai.org/reynaldo-reyes.
26
Christina Reyes, Reynaldo Reyes (1934-2016), ed. Sara Davis Buechner.
27
Zoltan Szabo (retired Towson University professor of Violin), interview with author, 24
January 2017, residential home, Baltimore, MD.
28
Ibid.
14

Fig. 5: Members of the Baltimore Trio in 2016, violinist Jeffery Howard, cellist Cecylia Barczyk,
and pianist Reynaldo Reyes.29

He also expanded his teaching activities far beyond his private and Towson studios. He

regularly returned to his homeland to lecture and perform, especially during summer break.30 In

Manila, the Philippine Womens University asked him to help in creating curriculum for their

recent doctorate program.31 He participated in and created numerous venues for spreading

musical enrichment to audiences ranging from little children to assisted living center members,

as his wife writes, Additionally, he established several outreach programs, both here and

abroad, designed to expose diverse audiences to classical music. These lecture recitals were

interactive, providing a unique opportunity for the audience to ask questions about classical


29
Photo from The Baltimore Trio-Dr. Jeffery Howard, WordPress.com, accessed 19 June
2017, https://jeffreyhowardviolin.wordpress.com/baltimore-trio/.
30
Lawrence Crawford (Towson University professor of Keyboard), interview with author, 21
October 2016, Towson University, Towson, MD.
31
Maryland Performing Arts Institute, Reynaldo Reyes, mdpai.org, posted 17 February 2016,
http://mdpai.org/reynaldo-reyes.
15

music.32 Throughout his life, he consistently gave his time and skill to humanitarian efforts,

such as memorial funds, benefit concerts, scholarships, or fundraising events.33 Reynaldo Reyes

taught and performed until the end of his life, passing away at the age of 82 due to a brain

hemorrhage on February 14, 2016. 34

Fig. 6: A life dedicated to music.35

Having taught for the majority of his life, his pedagogical methods offer insight into the

art of teaching, and as Carrie Barrett said, [W]ho knows how many students he has

influenced.36 His style would not be effective for all teachers because his character aided in his

methods effectiveness, but certainly all teachers could glean wisdom from facets of his teaching,

applying what is most beneficial for their own students. Similarly, through knowing Prof. Reyes


32
Christina Reyes, Reynaldo Reyes (1934-2016), ed. Sara Davis Buechner.
33
CGR, interview.
34
Rasmussen, Reynaldo G. Reyes; A Celebration of Life in Memory of Reynaldo Gutierrez
Reyes, memorial mass program.
35
Photo from Keyboard Performance Concentration-Towson University. Towson University,
accessed 19 June 2017, http://www.towson.edu/cofac/departments/music/undergrad/musicbm/
keyboard.html.
36
Carrie Barrett (Towson University student), interview with author, 19 October 2016, Towson
University, Towson, MD.
16

methods, students themselves can analyze how they learn and more effectively apply themselves

to the pursuit of knowledge.

Who did a man of this stature teach? He certainly instructed college students of various

backgrounds, and gifted and prodigious pupils, such as Sara Davis Buechner or David Witten,

who achieved highly successful careers as teachers and performers. However, he also enjoyed

teaching children, even those just beginning their musical journeys, and Lawrence Crawford

believed he may have found teaching children the most satisfying of his endeavors.37 His

studio outside Towson University used to contain a great number of young musicians, as

Christina Giorgilli Reyes said, He would teach anyone who wanted to learn as long as they

were producing something.38 In fact, he never desired a studio filled with serious, profession-

bound musicians, as Christina Giorgilli Reyes said, [I]f he had wanted that, he had many

opportunities. He couldve stayed at Peabody. He couldve stayed at Paris. That was not his

goal.39 At his memorial service, David Marchand, former chair of Towson Universitys

Department of Music, said he never heard Reyes complain about the students he was assigned,

seeing everyone for their unique potential.40

In terms of a students repertoire, Reyes was very traditional in his assignments, such as

giving his students Bachs prelude and fugues, Chopin etudes, and Beethoven sonatas. However,

he loved when students brought their own selections into lessons. When I asked him about

learning a particular piece, he responded, Of course you may learn the piece. As long as


37
Sarah Kooken (past Towson University undergraduate student), interview with author, 4
October 2016, phone interview; Crawford, interview.
38
CGR, interview.
39
Ibid.
40
The Reynaldo Reyes Funeral R.I.P. With Mid-Eval Christmas Song, YouTube video,
1:49:27, recording of Reynaldo Reyes memorial mass on 20 April 2016, posted by Telesforo
Reyes, 13 July 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NiI6Pp6vsI.
17

something makes you practice, its alright. As Esti Prabowo noted, he strongly preferred pieces

that challenged and elevated a students current ability level.41 It is an understatement to say he

stressed the significance of scales.42 Also, he promoted the multiple ways of practicing scales,

such as at the third, sixth, and tenth interval, and learning technique training from assignments

such as Czerny exercises and Hanon.43

Fig. 7: Towson University Pedagogy Class, Fall 2014. Photo courtesy of Scott Winter.

Flexibility in Approach for Each Student

What allowed Reyes to teach such a wide-range of people varying in age, ability, and

background? Reyes believed every student was different, and thus his approach to each student

would vary, as David Ballou writes, My memory of his teaching is that he addressed each


41
Esti Utami Prabowo (Towson University undergraduate student), interview with author, 21
September 2016, Towson University, Towson, MD.
42
Kooken, interview.
43
Sara Davis Buechner (professor of Keyboard at Temple University), interview with author, 13
January 2017, residential home, Lutherville, MD.
18

student as an individual with his/her own set of needs and abilities.44 To him, a student was not

just one of his assignments, but a unique, multi-faceted person, and thus the student required an

individual approach from him. Additionally, a main theme in his piano pedagogy class was one

set method cannot be applied to every student, but the teacher must absolutely be willing and

able to problem solve for the various difficulties a student may come across in playing.

Elizabeth Borowsky-LeBlanc wrote that he was a [d]edicated teacher who genuinely [enjoyed]

the learning process of each student and whatever their ability level, help[ed] them grow

exponentially.45

This belief was shown when he would constantly work towards figuring out your brain

and how a student processed information.46 Muriel Hopkins said he was wonderful at evaluating

where they [the students] are, and what they need, and what types of music they need to get them

beyond certain levels.47 Identifying the students weakness (or weaknesses, as was more often

the case) helped him to guide the student forward in his development. He wasted no time in

addressing issues, whether they are technical or artistic ones. For some, he pinpointed

weaknesses within minutes, and for others, the process took more time, but it was knowledge

he continually searched for and refined with each lesson.48

He continually sought to understand the problems a student faced in playing, and he

would adjust his approaches accordingly. A students issue(s) would prompt different tactics


44
David Ballou (Towson University professor of Jazz/Commercial Studies), email message to
the author, 17 April 2017.
45
Elizabeth Borowsky-LeBlanc (past Towson University undergraduate student), email message
to the author, 30 November 2016.
46
Bryan Alston (past Towson University undergraduate student), interview with author, 21
September 2016, residential home, Towson, MD.
47
Muriel Hopkins (past Towson University undergraduate and graduate student), interview with
author, 31 March 2017, phone interview.
48
Hopkins, interview; Barrett, interview.
19

needed to bring about the desired improvement in playing. Some of his approaches were

common and some rather atypical. For example, the common methods could be the standard

rhythm correcting procedures of counting or playing passages slow and steady to facilitate an

understanding of the rhythms.49 During Reyes retirement celebration, David Witten said:

So how did I become aware of how adjustable Mr. Reyes is, if Im just one student? I
used to arrive early in Stephens Hall, and wait outside his studio for my lesson. I used to
hear a variety of sounds coming through the door
Sometimes, I heard fast playing.
Sometimes, fast playing, but in rhythms.
Sometimes, slow playing.
Sometimes, REALLY slow playing.
Sometimes, PAINFULLY slow playing.
And also sometimes, no playing at all just talking.
So at some point, I asked Mr. Reyes, Why do some students play, but with others I only
hear talking. He answered [in what may be considered a prose Haiku], Some students
need to play a lot. Some students need to talk a lot.50

Some exercises he gave students were rather unusual but fitting for the situation and the

students need. David Witten tells the following account:

I presented Mr. Reyes with a student who had a quick and facile technique, and he could
learn just about anything, but he had a very thin tone. I was trying to predict what
approach Reynaldo would take, when suddenly Reynaldo said to the student, Why
dont you sit on the floor?!
You hear that sound. For the first time, you are hearing the way the soundboard
reflects off the floor, not the usual way of hearing the soundboard reflect off the lid.
You have to find a new way to listen, and you have to desire that sound. When the
student finally returned to the bench, it was a whole new performance.51

Another student played Debussys Minstrels for Reyes. To help the student understand

the interpretation, Reyess response was to be[come] a mischievous Troll, hiding in the forest,

poking his nose out and peeking around, seeing who his next victim would be, who he could play


49
Barrett, interview; Hopkins, interview.
50
David Witten, Reynaldo Reyes: A Tribute by David Witten, in Music for a Lifetime:
Tributes from the Reynaldo Reyes Retirement Celebration (Unpublished manuscript, last
modified 4 November 2015), electronic pdf, 25-26.
51
Witten, Reynaldo Reyes: A Tribute by David Witten, 27.
20

tricks on.52 In addition to inventive assignments or explanations for the students, he often used a

litany of metaphors and analogies to help students grasp concepts.53 Reyes approaches were vast

and varied, marked with imagination, as Sara Davis Buechner said, his life and his person were

a glorious living monument to the joy of creativity.54

Through his rigorous musical training, he was fully prepared to teach an extremely wide

range of ability. However, Reyes was never above trying to work with anyone. He thoroughly

delighted in helping students advance and gain victory over their technical or artistic issues,

specifically with those not in the elite league of musicians, as Christina Giorgilli Reyes said:

It was interesting to me because sometimes the least talented students and the most
challenging were the ones he would comment [on] sometimes because he was proud and
so happy because student X was able to memorize something, and the simplest thing
was just a joy to him that they had accomplished [it]. Not that he didnt love working
with students who were talented and had so many pieces together, but to him, it was
especially joyful to feel he had done something with a student that was struggling,
help[ing] them to make that break through.55

As his wife said when commenting on how he loved helping students overcome difficulties, I

think that defines a lot of his approach to teaching. Always trying to find a way to reach the

student [. . .], showing how every student received his focused attention and an individualized

approach from him.56

Reyes ability to adjust to students was fostered by his desire to continually learn about

and connect with the world around him. Lawrence Crawford described him as worldly in

regards to his desire to understand and relate to people.57 Michael Decker wrote:


52
Ibid., 29.
53
David Witten (Professor of Music at Montclair State University), interview with the author, 13
January 2017, residential home, Lutherville, MD.
54
Buechner, interview.
55
CGR, interview.
56
Ibid.
57
Crawford, interview.
21

As a colleague, I learned so much from Mr. Reyes, and not all musically. He had
travelled throughout the world, spoke many languages, and understood the cultures. That
had always fascinated me, and I treasured our lunch conversations which had inspired
many of my later travels and my interest in studying languages and cultures. Far ahead of
his time, he was well tapped into the ethnomusicology.58

His musical interests were widespread, as Michael Decker and Marc Bellassai recall discussions

with him about their instruments of classical guitar and harpsichord.59 When speaking of a

conversation on Louis Couperins unmeasured preludes, Bellassai was surprised at Reyes level

of knowledge and experience with the early music repertoire, feeling Reyes was speaking to him

not as a pianist to a harpsichordist but as a kindred spirit.60 He loved knowing about and

connecting with different cultures, and understanding their way of life and who they were.

Edward Berlett said, Outside of music, he liked to think he could engage anybody anywhere in

conversation. So, he was always interested in talking and meeting with people, like his brother,

a diplomat, and his father, a politician.61 He continually developed this wealth of knowledge,

allowing him to understand and connect with those around him.

His performing abilities and mindset were also characterized by adaptation. Cecylia

Barczyk described him as a collaborator that was a ready listener interested in realizing the

others ideas and vision, never forcing his desires on their duo or ensemble partnerships.62

Offering insight into Reyes adaptability through his sight-reading and improvising skills,

Michael Decker writes the following:


58
Michael Decker (Towson University professor of Guitar/Music Industry), email message to
the author, 18 April 2017.
59
Decker, email message to the author; Marc Bellassai (Towson University Professor of
Harpsichord/Early Music), interview with author, 30 September 2016, Towson University,
Towson, MD.
60
Bellassai, interview.
61
Edward Berlett (past Towson University undergraduate student), interview with author, 10
March 2017, TrinityLife Church, Lutherville, MD.
62
Cecylia Barczyk (Towson University professor), interview with author, 28 September 2016,
residential home, Towson, MD.
22

He could look at music and truly hear it, not just the notes, but the colors, the lines, the
textures, and the moving through time. When I turned pages for him when he was
accompanying, I discovered that he was reading far ahead of many pianists [in the score].
He had an uncanny ability to see the entirety of the score but reduce it in his mind to its
essence. So I was equally surprised to discover that what he was playing was not
necessarily the notes written but his concept of what was going on musically. Thus, he
was able to improve upon weak piano parts or poor transcriptions, and he was able to
reduce orchestral and choral scores on sight. [. . .] He was thinking of what was to come
so the occasional lapse or error didnt distract him. We last played on a joint faculty
recital perhaps 12 years back, and I was performing on a relatively obscure Brazilian
instrument, a cavaquinho. Instead of using the written piano accompaniment, he entirely
improvised a part which so well captured the essence of the Brazilian style.63

Two more stories showcase his versatility to efficiently work through challenging situations.

When he came to speak after playing for his Retirement Celebration recital, he admitted he was

overwhelmed by the great number of dear friends, family, and students sitting in the audience

and forgot the left-hand part to one of the programs works. Thus, he entirely improvised the

general harmonic structure of the piece. The other story came during a sight-reading class. He

said a previous class placed an extremely difficult piece in front of him, challenging him to sight-

read it on the spot. He sat down and played it. They were astounded. He cheekily responded,

You dont know if I did it right.

Reyes was a diverse, adaptive man musically and personally, and his lessons reflected

this flexible nature formed by his relationship and understanding of each student. His goals of

musical development for students remained very similar, but the process he went through with

each student would vary. As Esti Prabowo said, he was very systematic with his steps for

pianists, but the process of going through the structure was dependent on the student.64


63
Decker, email message to the author.
64
Prabowo, interview.
23

Your Practice Coach

Though his approach from one student to the next could be diverse, he was always a

students practice coach, as Eliza van Kan said, He taught me how to practice.65 During a

lesson, he would show or describe to the student how to practice a piece or specific sections

within it. Then he would ask the student to begin following out the assigned exercises, not

moving on until satisfied with the students comprehension and ability to effectively perform the

practice method/concept discussed. Giorgilli Reyes said, He would not just tell you what to do,

he would work through it with the student.66 He was very determined to see students realize his

instruction through their playing.67 Though this approach slowed the pace of a lesson, it allowed

the student to test out his understanding of Reyes instruction. Reyes could then observe how the

student was carrying out the given exercises. This gave him the ability to correct the student if

the exercises were not being implemented properly and guide the student to more fruitful future

practices. Giorgilli Reyes said, He taught me how to practice, and I remember my first lessons

with him, him telling me, there is a way to learn every passage. [. . .] He would break it [the

passage] apart and show you how to practice the passage, and of course, if you did that

successfully, he would move to the next level.68

Reyes end goal was to equip students to effectively practice on their own and to become

their own teacher. During my first freshmen lesson with him, he essentially told me, I want to

teach you how to teach yourself. To become your own teacher so you wont need me. At the

time, this perplexed me because upon my arrival at college, I anticipated years of growth and


65
Eliza van Kan (Towson University undergraduate student), interview with author, 20 October
2016, Towson University, Towson, MD.
66
CGR, interview.
67
Heather Whelan (Towson University undergraduate student), interview with author, 12
December 2016, Towson University, Towson, MD.
68
CGR, interview.
24

development through his instruction. However, he was not saying he did not want to teach me or

I should reach a point where the feedback of other musicians was unnecessary. He was teaching

me how to more efficiently develop and grow my skill. If a student learns how to understand and

apply concepts to his playing on his own and how to self-correct, then, in addition to an

instructor providing further details and advice, the students progress quickens and more

performance opportunities become available. Reyes personally carried this mindset of teaching

oneself. When asked about learning more music at 81, he revealed the struggles he faced in

doing so and how he pushed forward, saying, Im learning with the sheer belief that I was

taught how to learn.69

In addition to instructing a student on the appropriate practice method, he would give

extended lesson times or additional lessons. Edward Berlett remembers up to five-hour lessons,

because if a student happened to come in for a lesson at 7 PM, and if Prof. Reyes schedule

allowed for it, the lesson might last until midnight.70 Christina Giorgilli Reyes recalls how his

students would be in the practice rooms waiting their turn for lessons because it could come

earlier or later depending upon the previous students lesson lengths.71 I used to joke that it was

dangerous to stop by his office and say hello as this will turn into, Do you want a lesson?

He also tried to convey to students the more macro-methods of practicing. The micro-

methods dealt with specific passages or elements of a piece, while the macro-methods

encompassed larger goals, such as sight-reading or note-reading, and the ideal process of how to

learn and use a new piece. For sight-reading, he strongly emphasized the rhythm of the piece

must be strictly followed. After going through the pieces rhythm at the pace a person wants to


69
Interview with Reynaldo Reyes (part 1), YouTube video, posted by Elizabeth Borowsky.
70
Berlett, interview.
71
CGR, interview.
25

perform the piece, the performer must then, without looking down at his hands, commence to

playing the piece, continuing to play with the tempo set at the beginning regardless if the right

notes are being hit. He believed, with enough practice, the performer will learn to hit more and

more accurate notes as the brain would recognize the connection between the notes on the page

and the keyboards notes at quicker and quicker rates. Thus, the performers coordination of note

reading and actualization of the notes on the keyboard would become more accurate.72 Rhythm

was emphasized above all else because he believed it was the most important element in music

and created the pieces core structure.73

Once, he told me a five-week plan for learning a piece (this was told to me after I was

taking an enormous amount of time to learn a work). The process essence is as follows. By the

end of week one and two, the piece is practiced hands separately and hands together extremely

slow, with the notes being played loudly and heavily in the correct rhythm. During week three,

the piece is brought to the correct tempo and musical details have been added. By week four, the

piece should be memorized with week five allowing time for any specific issues to be addressed

and worked out efficiently.74 Two points must be taken into consideration when doing this

method, the first being the musician has enough time to practice to reach the large, weekly goals.

Second, according to my view, the performer should have previously mastered the technique


72
David Witten said Reyes told him an alternative method of sight-reading training, the Paris
Conservatory method way (which was of a more intimidating nature). Instead of covering up the
music a person already read, they would do the opposite and only reveal the next needed notes
until right before the person was to play them. Also, an additional sight-reading benefit was to
play Czerny. The patterns learned in Czerny would often come up again when reading new
music, and sight-reading would be improved because the hands would recognize the familiar
passages.
73
CGR, interview.
74
He insisted knowing the piece in solfge strengthened memory. I mainly observed him having
the melodic line memorized in solfge. Fixed-do was what he knew fluently, but I put this advice
into practice through moveable-do. Memorizing the melodic line this way allowed for the pianist
to hear the solfge in his head and easily locate the right notes while playing.
26

needed for the piece before attempting this process. According to this process, Reyes believed

any piece could be learned in five weeks. Students generally followed the milestones of this

process when learning a new work. Once a piece was learned efficiently, he desired students to

take their hard-earned work and perform for others, such as in master class or for competitions.75

By guiding students through small and large scale ways of playing a piece, he equipped them to

more effectively practice on their own and advance further in their studies.

Immense Dedication of Time

The vast amount of time Prof. Reyes dedicated to teaching facilitated his trait of

individually approaching students and coaching their practice. When the student needed extra

lessons, he would readily give more than the standard allotment assigned to college students each

semester.76 Figure 8 is a picture of his usual teaching schedule. His wife said he continually

prioritized the students needs before his own, as exemplified when often he began his personal

practice time late in the evening after a long day of teaching, as he always gave his best to his

students.77 He even coached vocal students, such as those of Towson Universitys retired vocal

professor, Ruth Drucker. Due to his accompanying training and experience with talented singers

in Paris, many vocalists would rehearse with him, and he would provide further instruction on

their performance. Again, he would do this after his teaching day.78


75
Prabowo, interview.
76
CGR, interview.
77
Ibid.
78
Ibid.
27

Fig. 8: Image of Reyes Teaching Schedule, displaying lessons from 9 AM to 8 PM. Photo
Courtesy of Christina Giorgilli Reyes.

Aside from considering the additional time needed to coach a students practice session,

two more prominent reasons appear for why he dedicated this quantity of time. During a

conversation I had with him regarding why he offered students two or three lessons per week, he

disclosed this was a common practice outside of the United States, such as in Europe. He said it

was a large reason for the success and skill level of those students. He witnessed how multiple

lessons a week were an important part in developing as a musician. He gave as many extra

lessons to students as they wanted so they could progress like those students do.

However, the biggest reason for giving away so much of his time was simply part of who

he was. Eileen Hayes commented on this selfless characteristic when she said, I think that as a
28

teacher and as a human being, he was generous. Generous to a fault. Generous with his time and

attention in teaching, generous in his commentary about the playing of others.79 This generosity

spread to those outside of his studio, as Scott Winter, another teachers student, wrote, He was

always friendly and would often stop me in the hallways to discuss pieces I was playing. He

inspired me by assuring me that I could play anything, regardless of how difficult it was, if I

practiced efficiently and effectively. He never hesitated to offer advice or encouragement.80

Winter also commented on Reyes kindness and dedication of time both inside and outside of

the classroom.81 Though Buechner seconds these personality traits of Reyes, she believes the

extreme devotion and dedication from him came at a great personal cost. He genuinely cared

about each student when not every student truly cared about him or what he was doing, and he

poured into each student regardless of his or her reciprocity.82 His devotion of time was often

putting his own health at risk in later years, especially when he continually attempted to teach

again right after an injury or surgery.

Challenging the Current Ability Level

In lessons, he continually pushed for students to expand their current ability level. He

preferred if students played pieces allowing them to [learn] something that is more difficult than

what you know, wanting them to tackle repertoire challenging their current playing ability and

understanding of music.83 He was not expecting all his students to attain the same skill aptitude


79
Eileen Hayes (Towson University professor of History and Culture and Chair to the
Department of Music), interview with author, 15 November 2016, Towson University, Towson,
MD.
80
Scott Winter (Towson University graduate student), email message to the author, 4 May 2017.
81
Ibid.
82
Buechner, interview.
83
Prabowo, interview.
29

or for everyone to reach an idealized, fixed standard, but he believed in continually pushing and

training each student to reach the next level of ability.84

He challenged students in multiple ways. He encouraged students to practice slowly

outside of lessons, but during lessons, he sought for students to quickly comprehend and apply

his instructions to their playing. Prabowo comments on this expectation of his when she said, I

didnt click with [. . .] [that] he is a fast person, and I am slow person. [. . .] [H]e always wanted

everything to go fast, and sometimes you wont.85 This type of forcefulness can be opposite of

what a student wants.86 Also, he sought to stretch a students ability level by targeting a current

weakness with an appropriately hard, but manageable, piece (manageable as defined by him,

not the student). If a student did not have the technique required for the work, he believed it

could be developed while learning the work, though it would better if the technique was already

grasped before embarking upon a new challenge. For instance, I needed help creating a louder

sound on the piano, and thus Liszts Tarantella was a suitable project. He knew what each piece

would require of the student, and as Kay Shin described, his instructions, as compared to her past

teachers, were effective and efficient, allowing her to learn pieces in a timelier manner.87 Finally,

he could demand a high standard of playing. When preparing for a competition as a child, Sara

Davis Buechner remembered a lesson with Reyes where she played the piece, he went over

details, and then asked for her to play again. And again. And again. The lesson went on for three


84
Bellassai, interview.
85
Prabowo, interview.
86
Ibid.
87
Christopher Dillon (Towson University professor of Piano/Theory and Composition),
interview with author, 11 November 2016, Towson University, Towson, MD; Kay Shin (Towson
University graduate student), interview with author, 1 December 2016, Towson University,
Towson, MD.
30

to four hours. Finally, tired and angry, she played it with every ounce of energy she

possessed.88 This time around, he was satisfied she had given full effort, and the lesson ended.89

To work successfully, this type of rigorous teaching required the student to practice and

prepare well for each lesson, as Jing Chang says, My opinion, he is probably more fit for the

college student. He will give you something that you have to try to understand it. [. . .] Again, we

have to prepare. [. . .] We have to be ready to understand what he is talking about and able to do

it.90 Reyes would continue to push and not expect less from a student even if he was not

prepared for the lesson. David Marchand, former chair of Towson Universitys Department of

Music, told the following account for Reyes memorial service:

One day very close to the end of the semester, there was a clamoring outside the music
department office. Suddenly, ten or so people came rushing into my office, shouting and
waving their arms about. Angry does not begin to describe their emotion.

After they had finally settled down, a parent of a student spoke up and informed me that
Reynaldo had canceled their childs recital that was scheduled for that very night. Food
for a reception was bought, relatives had come from far away at great expense, a
photographer had been hired, etc., etc. They expected me to overrule Reynaldo and
reinstate the recital.

Before I could answer, Reynaldo stepped into my office and the hullabaloo started up
once again. Let me first say that I was amazed at Reynaldos demeanor. He was cool, as
we say, as a cucumber. All he said was that she was not ready. He would not allow the
recital to go on until she was ready.

More threats, more pleadings did not move him and the recital was postponed. However,
three weeks later, he gave his approval and she gave a wonderful performance. She later
confided to Reynaldo that he had taught her a greater lesson than only pianistic skills.


88
Buechner, interview.
89
Ibid.
90
Jing Chang (past Towson University undergraduate student), interview with author, Sept. 29,
2016, Towson University, Towson, MD.
31

In fact, after she graduated, she moved to Italy where she has established an outstanding
career as a pianist. She continually corresponded with Reynaldo, bringing him up-to-date
on her career and thanking him for instilling in her a sense of discipline.91

Some may view this teaching characteristic of his as unrealistic. Why constantly raise the

difficulty level, especially when the student thinks it too hard or impossible? Two main reasons

exist. First, how he thought of challenges was crucial. As Jing Chang says, From him, Ive

learned theres no such difficult thing you cannot handle. We have to find the right method or

right way to do it.92 A common phrase of his was Its easy. Of course, this was a frustrating

statement when struggling with a concept or technique, but to him, everything was a puzzle. For

example, he told Carrie Barrett that her small hands should not be an impairment to playing,

working with her on fingerings to facilitate her performance.93 If the student can comprehend the

problem and the right solution, then all challenges were easy to conquer with enough effort.94

The second reason lies in his core belief about each student.

Unfailing Belief in Your Potential

Reyes believed in the potential of students to accomplish goals the students themselves

often thought improbable. Daniel Blackburn felt Reyes believed in him and his capabilities when

Blackburn could not.95 Katherine Fernandez Asis states, Mr. Reyes was THE person who made

me believe in myself and in my potential to be an artist. He not only convinced me to pursue a

career in music, but also pushed me as a person to discover who I really am and how I can use


91
The Reynaldo Reyes Funeral R.I.P. With Mid-Eval Christmas Song, YouTube video, posted
by Telesforo Reyes.
92
Chang, interview.
93
Barrett, interview.
94
Shin, interview.
95
Daniel Blackburn (past Towson University undergraduate student), interview with author, 1
October 2016, phone interview.
32

myself in the service of music and of the world at large.96 For a few weeks, he continually tried

to emphasize and push a concept I was not grasping. Because the past few days had been hard

academically and personally, I pathetically broke down crying during the lesson. He immediately

stopped teaching and said, What did I say? When I was trying to explain how it was just a bad

week, he said, Im saying these things because you could be good! Urging them towards it, he

held a vision for what students could be, and this was often higher than the students own beliefs

about themselves. Christopher Dillon remembers Reyes high expectations for his students and

his lack of [making] distinctions between students in this regard.97

However, he knew the student needed to personally have this belief for progress to be

made towards fulfilling the vision.98 Put another way, he knew the power of the mind, and no

amount of belief on his end could ever make a student reach his full potential without the student

believing himself capable. He continually told me that if I thought something was impossible or

that I could not do it, I just barred myself from accomplishing it. My mind could be a stairway

leading to continual progress or a chain hindering me from moving forward at the rate I was

capable of achieving. He commented on this mental battle when asked about learning new music

when he was 81. He said:

Its hard. Its difficult. Im old. I cannot memorize anymore, and all those kinds of things
come into my head. But I said, Im not going to give into this fear. [. . .] Im learning
with the sheer belief that I was taught how to learn. [. . .] Im competing with myself.


96
Katherine Fernandez Asis, untitled tribute in Music for a Lifetime: Tributes from the
Reynaldo Reyes Retirement Celebration (Unpublished manuscript, last modified 4 November
2015), electronic pdf, 11.
97
Dillon, interview.
98
Similarly, he also taught that it is extremely helpful if a musician first conceives of the musical
intention mentally before playing it. If a person cannot mentally perceive and hear what needs
to be done, then the hands will have a hard time performing the activity. For example, if a person
was unable to do runs quickly, part of the problem may lie in the person not hearing it in his head
quick enough. In this instance, the mind creates the reality.
33

[My brain said], if you cannot do this, forget it. Just give up. But if I can still do that
[learn the music], that means I really can still play and learn anything.99

While Reyes could not control what a student thought about himself or his capabilities,

he tried to help positively reinforce the students mind in two ways. First, as mentioned earlier,

he constantly tried to figure out what a student was thinking or how a student processed musical

functions, such as timing and note-reading.100 The more he was aware of the ways in which the

student thought about or understood the musical tasks, the better he explained to the student what

the students mind was doing (or failing to do), and how he could more effectively think about

the task. Second, he was aware of his influence on the students mind. During a lesson, he once

told me he could ruin a student by what he said to the student. He talked about how a teachers

words could cripple the students mind by hindering his growth and potential in learning music,

alluding to the powerful role a teacher can play on a students studies or life (and self-esteem).

This is why he did not like giving low sight-reading grades. He believed a student would feel

defeated by a terrible grade and not try again in the future. Of course, students who do not care

about giving effort can take advantage of his mindset towards grading, but students in general

could flaunt the traditional grading system as well through cheating or plagiarizing.

However, achieving success was two-fold, and included more than positive thinking, as

David Ballou writes, I believe he felt that if you apply yourself, you can do much more than you

think possible. He believed this for the student even if the student didnt believe it for

themselves.101 He did not reserve his unfailing belief only for the naturally gifted but for those

willing to work, as Berlett said:


99
Interview with Reynaldo Reyes (part 1), YouTube video, posted by Elizabeth Borowsky.
100
Alston, interview.
101
Ballou, email message to the author.
34

He was always encouraging, as demanding as he could be. But no matter what, if you
practiced, you would overcome [difficulties] and be able to do what you wanted to do. [. .
.] I think in part, also, he ran into many gifted students, and he found many that didnt
work, so they didnt progress. So being gifted wasnt the only thing you needed to
succeed. [. . .] I mean, as gifted as he was, he always seemed to say that it was only
because I practiced a whole lot I was able to do anything. He never made very much of
the fact that he may or may not have been gifted.102

His view of what a student could do was not bound to aptitude, as shown when he was

personally asked, Are you extremely talented? He responded by saying, Talent? What is

talent? I do not know what that word means. What I know is that I am capable.103 The ability to

achieve meant more than what one already possessed. Only if a student worked hard and

believed in his ability to accomplish, success was attainable and in sight. As Eliza van Kan said,

his confidence in what students could do was not him being altruistic, and Im a good teacher

because I never give up on my students, but a genuine reflection of who he was.104

Potential Weaknesses to Reyes Approach

Reyes teaching methods, while empowering and successful for many, contained

approaches not all students found helpful, particularly in the tendencies of criticism without

enough encouragement and clarity in explaining concepts. He usually provided a myriad of

critique on a students playing but little positive reinforcement.105 As Berlett explains it:

Strengths are also his weaknesses. He was very demanding. Very rarely would I ever hear
him tell me, That was perfect. Only a few times I would play something, and he had no
comment about anything. [. . .] So, for a lot of people, that is difficult. They are unable to
take that kind of rigorous criticism. If you cant take that kind of criticism, he wasnt the
teacher for you. His standard was nothing less than get ready for the recording
studio.106


102
Berlett, interview.
103
Interview with Reynaldo Reyes (part 2), YouTube video, 4:48, Elizabeth Borowsky-
LeBlanc interviewing Reynaldo Reyes, posted by Elizabeth Borowsky, 28 March 2016,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5hIN-Mvzvg.
104
van Kan, interview.
105
Whelan, interview.
106
Berlett, interview.
35

Though extremely thankful to Reyes for his teaching and influence, Sara Davis Buechner

believes encouragement was not a strength of his.107 During my first lesson at Towson, he told

me why he rarely handed out praise. He thought it better to spend the time providing information

on how to improve my playing rather than take time with compliments. Of course, he said, I

will occasionally tell you what you are doing right, but if I dont say anything, that means you

are doing it right.

His way of communicating was not always ideal, and sometimes concepts were not able

to be understood fully by the student, as Anabelinda de Castro writes, He had a way of

presenting concepts and ideas in just a few, simple words. This could be a strength or a

weakness. Sometimes, it was helpful since it was easy to understand and remember and seemed

so simple to do! Other times it might not have always led to a thorough understanding of an issue

or not been effective all the time.108 Similarly, Barrett felt frustration and confusion when he

was challenging her to increase her ability level because she didnt always quite understand

what [she] needed to get to that level.109 However, their student-teacher relationship developed

to where she better understood how he taught and he learned more effective ways to teach her.

She said, I think that just shows how adaptive he was as a teacher.110

Two personal characteristics of his were not always conducive to musical growth or

running his studio. First, his strong suit was not in organization skills, which could show up in

the lack of structure for lessons or in navigating the college requirements for a music degree.111

As Borowsky-LeBlanc describes it, he was [n]ot an academic type--more practical and of-the-


107
Buechner, interview.
108
de Castro, email message to author.
109
Barrett, interview.
110
Ibid.
111
Alston, interview; Whelan, interview.
36

moment. [He] [e]njoys people and music, not rules, meetings and paperwork.112 The second

personal characteristic was the agitation he could develop during a lesson. A few things may

have led him to display a temperamental nature.113 This occurred when he tried to explain a

topic and the student consistently did not understand or the student continually does not progress

in a specific area.

Lastly, while he sought to push a students current comfort zone through giving them

pieces above their level, they may not have developed the technique required for the piece before

attempting to play it. If this was the case, he believed a student could develop the technique

through learning the piece, and this was done successfully in many instances. However, a

problem can occur if the student did not develop the technique properly and injuries himself

while learning pieces above of his skill level.

Application of His Teaching Principles

Just as he believed in flexibility for each student, his five main teaching approaches can

be realized in a multitude of different ways depending on what is best for each persons

particular circumstance. The following points are not only applicable to teachers and students, as

people in general take on the nature of each role throughout life. For example, parenting children

and organizing an event are common life experiences causing the person to perform a part

similar to that of a teacher. Also, attempting to learn a new skill or reach a goal, such as cooking

pastries, hiking, or writing a memoir, puts a person in the role of a student once again, though the

classroom may be the kitchen, the outdoors, or the living room, and the teacher may be an online

video, an experienced friend, or a library book. Thus, the principles discussed below apply to

anyone desiring to transfer knowledge or receive it.


112
Borowsky-LeBlanc, email message to the author.
113
de Castro, email message to author.
37

First, adaptation and adjustment were core elements to his teaching style, as David

Marchand said, With Reynaldo, the issue was not how he taught, but rather how the students

learned. He turned the process up-side-down. Each student was unique and was never considered

a product to be turned out like something from a factory. His creativity in teaching was truly

unbounded, and how the students loved him for it.114 With the means they have, teachers should

be aware of and acknowledge the many differences in learning processes and ability levels of

their students. This should be done without making students feel they are compared to other

students or they are less than other students because of their ability levels, as this impression

on a student can be detrimental to their development.

As Reyes continually sought to understand how a student processed information, it is

important for a student to understand this himself. Taking note of how to learn better can

expound the comprehension process. For example, students could observe themselves in how

they have learned in the past, reflecting on classes they did well in and those they did not. They

could think about the possible reasons a classs content was understood well and what were the

reasons why another classs information was not comprehended to the same degree (aside from

blaming the teacher, as is the fallback excuse). If a student discovers a classs power points

played a large part in why he did well on a test, then for other classes, the student should work

towards organizing the information onto flashcards. Also, if a student figures out he understood

material better when graphs and images were present, then the student can find these materials

on the subject, such as online or through the schools library. Students should develop an

awareness of methods they worked best with and seek to apply these methods or a form of them

to their current studies.


114
The Reynaldo Reyes Funeral R.I.P. With Mid-Eval Christmas Song, YouTube video,
posted by Telesforo Reyes.
38

Second, when Reyes was a students practice coach, he trained the student in the various

processes of learning a piece. Thus, emphasizing how to learn a concept improves a lesson or a

lectures effectiveness. In teaching, it will require extra time to thoroughly go over the process of

obtaining the right answer or information and getting the correct result, but it will be time well

spent, as students will be equipped to perform the task. If time is not available in a lesson or

lecture to consistently do this, materials should be provided or references given allowing students

to access this information on their own. As Reyes emphasized, equipping students to teach and

reason for themselves is extremely beneficial to their growth in the class and outside the

classroom. Resourceful students can figure out how to find the information they need on their

own, but many students will feel defeated or frustrated if they cannot understand what the class

requires of them.

For students, Reyes idea of simply viewing a task as a process of steps can help them

with any goal. Continually seeking out patterns or processes in material is a worthwhile pursuit.

Any project, no matter the size, can be broken down into manageable steps. The present-day

student has little excuse for not being equipped with the information and help needed to succeed.

Office hours and tutors exist to help the student ask specific questions and receive individual

attention. School libraries filled with resources and librarians eagerly willing to help find these

materials are numerous. Even the internet, when used with discretion, can provide helpful

information, as many educational databases exist online.

Third, a large reason for the success of his methods was his devotion of time, though not

all teachers will be able to give the vast number of hours or days Reyes gave to his students.

Reyes believed hard work was crucial to progress, and students need to responsibly devote the

time and effort needed to understand and sufficiently master the material. If the student does not
39

take studying or practicing seriously, then no effort on the teachers part will compensate for the

students shortcoming in dedication.

Fourth, challenges were a well-known part of Reyes approach. When properly

implemented and accomplished, challenges can inspire students to continue strengthening and

developing their skills to unimagined levels. Succeeding through a difficult test can not only

strengthen ability but also positively build up self-esteem and desire to continue reaching for the

next goal. If the teacher is equipped with the right resources and/or experiences, the teacher will

possess the ability to guide the student through the testing assignment. With dedication from the

student, the amount of intellectual and personal development is unlimited.

Lastly, one of Reyes key principles of success was in realizing the minds full potential,

as its power cannot be understated. A teacher can greatly influence a students thoughts about

himself in either a positive or negative way. Students can quickly sense whether or not a teacher

believes in their potential and fights for their success. Similarly, lack of faith in a students

ability or harsh, negative words can all too easily become internalized and haunt the mind for

years to come. People should not speak false praise or lie about a students ability, which can be

just as damaging to the student, but genuine encouragement and honest critique delivered in

kindness will positively affect receptive students. When possible, it is crucial that students seek

mentors who do believe in their potential and want the best for them. However, a persons mind

is a potent enemy or ally, and only the individual can determine which it will be.
40

Fig. 9: Reyes and Towson piano students at his Retirement Celebration, April 11, 2015.

Conclusion: Man Behind Mindset

His students careers of teaching and performing demonstrate the effectiveness of his

teaching methods. He loved caring and developing the people he taught and made this his

lifelong mission. He said, For me, teaching is sharing yourself with somebody, and I have

always had that even when I was very young. I had always that idea that I want to share what I

know and impart it to someone else.115 When asked why he performed, Reyes said, So that I

can teach better. That is why I like performing. Because if I cannot do it myself well, how can I

tell somebody when its well.116 When asked what he desired his students learn, Reyes replied,

See, I want them to discover [. . .] that what theyre afraid of, theres nothing to be afraid of [in

115
Interview with Reynaldo Reyes (part 2), YouTube video, posted by Elizabeth Borowsky.
116
Ibid.
41

playing].117 Reyes could have easily developed a more illustrious performing career, but his

desire to teach was greater.118 In his memory, a website is being created to gather resources about

Reyes, such as written material, photos, or videos (footnote carries websites address).119

Information for contributing to the site can be found on the contact page.

Who he was as a person played a large role in building the student-teacher relationship

and fostering a students musical growth. Students knew he was dedicated to them, and his

selfless devotion built trust. He did not view teaching as merely a job, but as a musical

community of people to personally invest in for life. When I was discussing the pricing of

lessons with him after college, he replied, You dont have to pay me. You are my student.

Michael Decker wrote, As a person, friend, and colleague, he was always so generous with his

time. He was loyal and supportive to his students. He was such a kind soul.120

Self-imposing and pompous may describe many concert pianists of his stature, but

humility was a core characteristic of his being, as Bellassai said, He never had an attitude you

had to get past.121 Cecylia Barczyk remembers he always listened and sought to facilitate

anothers ideas in collaborations.122 Never wearing masks, Reyes did not change himself

depending on who was in the room at the moment. This self-effacing nature allowed people to

connect with him easily, as David Ballou writes:

To me, Prof. Reyes was an example of a humble, passionate musician. He understood


that to be a musician is a human act and not a mechanical one. That is, he often spoke
with humility of the times he would have a memory slip and how he developed ways to
cover them. I am still struck that he had the humility to tell me about his mistakes rather
than boast about his triumphs. Of course, he prided himself on his sight reading prowess,


117
Interview with Reynaldo Reyes (part 2), YouTube video, posted by Elizabeth Borowsky.
118
CGR, interview.
119
The websites address is http://rememberingreynaldoreyes.weebly.com.
120
Decker, email message to the author.
121
Bellassai, interview.
122
Barczyk, interview.
42

but he explained that a most basic approach to the music was crucial. He told me how he
would memorize music one measure at a time. Meticulously playing one measure 30-40
times before moving on. This indicates to me that Prof. Reyes was a dedicated, yet
humble person that never forgot that music is a human endeavor that is not so much
perfection.123

When I asked his wife to summarize him in a few sentences, she responded by saying, As I am

going through all of his scores, correspondences, and programs, I am finding that there is more

than I ever knew, and why didnt I know these things? Because I would sum it up [with this]- his

humility and his dedication to teaching.124

Without his selflessness, loyalty, and humility, Reyes impact on students would not be

as far reaching. Who he was aided in the effectiveness of his teaching and caused many to view

him as more than a colleague or teacher. During interviews, many made sure to tell me he was a

friend in addition to a teacher or colleague. Christopher Dillon speaks for many when he writes:

A noble artist with a servant's heart, Reynaldo Reyes personified the saying, "noblesse
oblige." Like Franz Liszt, who took the phrase and made it his own ("genie oblige"),
Professor Reyes, whose skills were so superhuman as to bring the word "genius" to mind,
was always ready to help his students and colleagues, often at great personal cost. He will
be, no, he is greatly missed by all who knew him.125


123
Ballou, email message to the author.
124
CGR, interview.
125
Christopher Dillon, comment on Reynaldo Reyes, The Baltimore Sun: Guest Book
(Website), 22 February 2016, http://www.legacy.com/guestbooks/baltimoresun/reynaldo-reyes-
condolences/177783139?cid=full&page=5.
43

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Residential home, Towson, MD.

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