How do you say goodbye to someone you've known your whole life? On Saturday, I experienced the bittersweet sendoff for my teacher, mentor, and friend Prof. Reynaldo Reyes. His memorial service was a beautiful and moving event: the tears shed were a testimony to the countless lives he had touched through his service in music as performer and teacher. The very large church was full of colleagues, former students, family, friends, and fans - there to support his wife and family and pay tribute to this exceptional man. I was honored to present a eulogy and want to share the text with you.
Earlier this spring, I performed a piece that is a powerful musical reflection on life and death. The music, written for cello and piano, depicts a dialogue between a father and son throughout the last moments of the father’s life. The music is a heart-wrenching reflection of the son recognizing the pivotal role of his father in every aspect of his life, and the responsibility that he now carries to honor him through his own life and leadership. As this was just a few weeks after Professor Reyes' passing, my thoughts and heart turned to his role in my personal and musical upbringing... as well as in the life of so many others.
Professor Reynaldo Reyes truly was a musical father for many young musicians. In my case, I knew him my whole life: my Mom joined the faculty of Towson University and became a member of the Baltimore Trio just a few months before I was born. I studied with him through my teens, continued on for my undergraduate studies, and then over the last decade, returned to him for guidance in performing and teaching. I brought my own students to him when I needed advice from someone I could trust.
A couple years ago I took Professor Reyes out to lunch at the Towson Diner. We discussed life, teaching, music... even politics. The most memorable moment of that conversation: he told me that he had no desire to stop teaching so long as he was living. "After all," he laughed, "I just keep getting better and learning more, and have more to share with my students!"
In April last year, we celebrated his decades of service to the Towson University community with a gala concert and tribute that brought together his colleagues and former students from around the world. Though the event was advertised as his retirement celebration he continued to teach students at the university.
I am still working on the fact that he is no longer here. I am grateful for his incredible influence on me as a person, and his example as a pianist and teacher. He not only taught young pianists and inspired audiences through his performances - he touched the lives of his students with such genuine care and concern for their total development as humans.
The result is lifelong gratitude, inspiration, and a legacy that will not be forgotten. He was among the rare breed of teachers who believe that every student is capable of learning anything. And he would prove this to the students themselves by helping them learn works that surpassed their greatest expectations, and then laughing as he exclaimed, "See - it's easy!" His genuine love of teaching, exploring music, and overseeing the technical, artistic, and personal growth in his students made him a role model for all who aspire to be a teacher.
Students remember a teacher's comments, suggestions, and practice techniques, but even more so, their way of being an example. As teachers ourselves, our best way of paying tribute to those who cared for us is to share it with our own students. May Professor Reyes' love of music and people live on long into the future.
Please watch the excerpts from an interview I did with Prof. Reyes just last spring (2015). Enjoy, and share with other pianists, teachers, and students!
Elizabeth Borowsky is a pianist, teacher, and composer. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano (Music Teachers National Association).