By Ayn Rand I. Parel
Illustration by Erick Christian P. David

WORLD-CLASS pianist Reynaldo Reyes has always believed that passion is the key to exceptional musicianship. It was this passion for music that led him to simultaneously attend UST High School and the UST Conservatory of Music and graduating at an early age of 17.


Standing out
Reyes has always been a good student, although he never became an honor student. But he surprised himself when he decided to take high school and college.
During that time, students are still allowed to enroll in the Conservatory even without a high school diploma provided that classes are on private tutorial. Reyes even finished his Music subjects before finishing secondary school, but had to wait one year before he was allowed to graduate as minor subjects cannot be given until after high school. Being a high school and college student at the same time, he graduated from the University in 1950, Bachelor of Music.
After he graduated from UST, he continued his studies abroad, enrolling at the Conservatory of Paris where he won Premier Prix in 1957. The Premier Prix is a first prize title won in the year end-competition, a requirement for a music student to achieve before he is allowed to graduate. Upon graduation, he applied for his Master’s degree and Artist’s diploma at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland where he became a faculty member of the University in 1960. He was also named “Musician of the Year” by the University of the Philippines in 1957, 1961, and 1965—the only Filipino to be honored at three different times. In the international setting, he was a prize winner in three international competitions namely, the Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition in Brazil, The Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy, and the Marguerite Long International Piano Competition in Paris, France.
Seven years after being indicted at the Peabody Conservatory, he returned to UST to receive the “Golden Cross Award”, the highest award the University bestows on its alumni for his contribution to music.
According to Reyes, his early education in UST contributed to his success abroad.
“One reason why I am very grateful to UST is because they managed to give lots of advance training for its students,” Reyes said. “I was part of almost all of the events at the conservatory so I had a very rich early experience as a musician which helped me a lot in Europe and the US,” he said.

Thomasian, Filipino, and proud
Reyes has been a Music professor at Towson University (TU) in Baltimore Maryland, USA for more than 40 years now. However, his tenure at TU does not deter his loyalty to his alma mater. He claims that he owes his education to UST, and feels that he has to give back something that the University will be proud of. Because of this, he is now using what he learned to benefit other people by using music as a medium of improvement for those who are mentally ill.
But apart from being loyal and grateful to his alma mater, Reyes also claims to be a nationalistic person. Although he has been living in the United States for 54 years, he says that he has never changed his nationality.
“I am still a Filipino citizen and will forever be. I feel that if I change (my citizenship), I will be selling my soul and gratitude,” he said.
Wanting to contribute to the progress of the country’s intelligence, Reyes regularly comes home twice a year for three decades now at his own expense and time to talk about the importance of listening to classical music to students and rural folk, and since 2001, has performed free concerts and talks on the importance of classical music not only in terms of art and aesthetics, but also of education.
“Filipinos in general are not well informed enough,” Reyes expressed.
The effects of classical music on the brain are already known to First World countries, but unfamiliar to most Filipinos. Reyes believes that most Filipinos have a misconception about music as something abstract which only sounds good to the ear. For Reyes, many schools do not teach it because they are not aware that it can also be an objective avenue for self-improvement.
“Our officials are also not aware of the benefits of listening to classical music so our curriculum barely touches on that subject,” he explains.

Music for the brain

In a previous article from the Varsitarian, studies have proven that listening to classical music does not only nourish the brain, but can also help the mentally-disabled to improve.
Classical music is a good source of neurons, or new brain cells, which are continuously generated throughout one’s lifetime. Moreover, classical music is also used as therapy for abnormal people, anesthesia for operations, and also therapy for the sick and the mentally-challenged.
Commonly known as the “Mozart Effect,” scientific research explains that the physiological, psychological, mental, and socio-emotional effects of listening to classical music are beneficial to patients because it regulates respiratory patterns, improves memory, and decreases tension.
There have been several cases wherein playing classical music to patients during and after surgery helped reduce the pain. A research by Drs. Kathi J. Kemper and Suzanne C. Danhauer from the Southern Medical Association reported that a number of vascular surgery patients showed decreased pain levels after a music session.
True enough, Reyes himself found improvement in his son who was initially diagnosed with autism when he was born. Now 25 years old, he initially couldn’t speak until his father taught him to play and listen to classical music on the piano. Reyes’ goddaughter who was mentally challenged also began to talk after five years of taking up music lessons.
His first efforts on putting the music therapy theory into use has benefited his family.
“My success, my ambitions and my energies to succeed stem from my family’s ambition not to fail. We don’t have to always emerge at the top, but we have to try to be the best. Learning does not stop with aging and improving is not hindered by age. It is hindered by lack of desire,” he said.