As I write this entry, I am on a Delta flight from Baltimore to Detroit, listening to a recording of a piece that's on tomorrow night's program with cellist Amit Peled. This work, "Kaddish" by Mark Kopytman, is a powerful tribute to a father and a heart wrenching interpretation of the traditional prayer that is recited by a son at his father's funeral.
Two weeks ago my most influential teacher and mentor, Professor Reynaldo Reyes, passed away at a young 82. I studied with him as a teen, continued on for my undergraduate studies at Towson University, and continued to return to him for guidance in performing and teaching (including bringing him several of my own students). But I've known him my whole life: as a member of the Baltimore Trio, my Mom was his colleague since before I was born.
A couple years ago, over lunch at the Towson Diner, he told me that he had no desire to stop teaching so long 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 2015, we celebrated his decades of service to the Towson University community with a gala concert and tribute that brought together his former students from around the world. Though the event was advertised as his "retirement" celebration he continued to teach students at the university and this past January had spent several weeks touring through the Philippines. Certainly, his dedication to music and people was a powerful motivating factor in his life.
Though I am still coming to grips with knowing that he no longer here, I am grateful for his incredible influence on me as a person, and 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 that has manifested in 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. He would prove it to each student 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.
His impact will live on through his students and carry on long into the future.
Elizabeth Borowsky is a pianist, teacher, and composer. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano (Music Teachers National Association).