The Department of Music observes the retirement of pianist Reynaldo Reyes with a celebration of his 50-plus years of service to Towson University and the community. The evening includes his performance of Bach’s “Chaconne in D Minor” as transcribed by Busoni, and stories and anecdotes shared by TU alumni and colleagues. The tribute concludes with an open reception, giving all the opportunity to congratulate Professor Reyes in person.
Saturday, April 11 at 7:00pm
Harold J. Kaplan Concert Hall, CA 3042
Center for the Arts, Towson University, Towson, MD 21252
Piano Prodigies director and pianist Elizabeth Borowsky studied with Professor Reynaldo Reyes from age 13-21. She considers him a tremendous influence on shaping her musical, technical, and teaching skills. In preparation for his retirement celebration, she sat down to ask him about his life as pianist and teacher. Below is a sneak-preview of the interview!
Elizabeth Borowsky (EB): Tell us about your childhood, and specifically, how you got into music.
Reynaldo Reyes (RR): I come from a family that was very ambitious. My parents had seven kids, and wanted their children to be successful. I was the second youngest. They chose what we’d be: The firstborn must be a doctor. There next would be a pharmacist. There must be a lawyer…
So… you were chosen to be the pianist?
No! It was an accident. My sisters learned piano and taught me. We came from a small town and didn’t know much. The piano we had at home was not intended for me - it was intended for everyone. My sisters were my first teachers. When I was seven I started taking lessons with a real piano teacher. But she lived 17 kilometers away. How do you think I got to my lesson each week?
Bus? Hitchhiking? Bicycle?
No! I walked!
Yes. I walked! It was during the war and everything was destroyed. There was no transportation. We walked four hours each way, each week, for a one hour lesson. When my students call me and say “Mr. Reyes, I can’t come to my lesson as my car doesn’t work” I laugh and tell them this story. The challenge is not the point. Piano lessons were so important. I would never be absent, for anything, for any reason!
Were you an exceptional talent?
I didn’t have anyone to compare myself to, and that wasn’t important for me. Also, I didn’t know the word “talent” or what it means. I was… capable. I never complained when I was given something difficult. In fact, the harder it was, the more I liked it. It challenged me. I didn’t do it because I was talented or because I liked it so much. I didn’t understand those words and their complex meaning.
How do you practice now?
The variations on Bach - I’ve always loved them. But they were so hard - I didn’t even dare to start them. Until I decided that I’ll do it for this recital. So, at the age of 81, I chose to force myself to learn them… even if just to test myself and answer the question: can I still do it? I could say, “It’s hard. It’s difficult. I’m old. I cannot memorize anymore.” But I’m not going to give into this fear. I’m not going to be defeated. If I can’t learn it, I shouldn’t be playing! I’m learning with the sheer belief that I was taught how to learn, and how to compete with myself. That competition — that challenge — is making me learn it. If I can do it, it means I really can still play, and learn, anything. I’m not learning a simple piece. It’s difficult.
Elizabeth Borowsky is a pianist, teacher, and composer. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano (Music Teachers National Association).