Peabody Johns Hopkins University Magazine

Bienvenido Panganiban: Still at the Helm, After 52 Years 

Bienvenido Panganiban: Still at the Helm, After 52 Years 

Bienvenido S.P. Panganiban was certainly grateful for the generosity of spirit and resources shown by unanticipated benefactors when he arrived from his native Philippines to study at Peabody in the early 1950s.

“At first, I was self-supporting,” Panganiban (MM ’56, Piano; MM ’57, Theory), now 84, recalls from his home on the island of Okinawa in Japan. “Many people who I did not know, nor had I met, helped without my asking. Without these people, I might not be where I am today.”

That would be as director of Ryukyu Classical Academy, the school he founded in early 1963 and has overseen ever since. Located at Camp Foster, a sprawling American military installation on Okinawa, the private academy offers instruction in piano, guitar, voice, violin, drums, and theory to American civilians and military personnel, plus their families.

Panganiban came to the piano relatively late (age 13), having been unable to study during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II, when schools were closed. After earning undergraduate degrees in music theory and piano at Manila’s University of Santo Tomas (UST), he completed his dual master’s at Peabody, staying on as a faculty member while also working in administration. In 1959, he returned to the Philippines to serve in similar capacities at UST’s Conservatory of Music and graduate school.

Next: Ryukyu Classical Academy. “I came to Okinawa in late 1962 for one year to establish the academy,” he notes with a laugh, “but have stayed for 52.”

Over the years, Panganiban’s Peabody experience has exerted a profound effect on him, especially the influence of his piano teacher back then, Erno Balogh, a pupil of Béla Bartók. “Mr. Balogh was not only a mentor but someone who valued the welfare of his students,” Panganiban explains. “He found us summer jobs, concert engagements. From this, I knew that I should do the same thing when I could afford it.”

Accordingly, he sponsors scholarships at four Japanese universities and another at UST. Additionally, to date, he has chosen 12 gifted students from the master classes he gives each summer at UST to study piano or voice in the graduate program at Winthrop University in South Caroli- na, which offers them full scholarships and assistantships; Panganiban, meanwhile, picks up the tab for their transportation to the United States.

“The personal satisfaction one gets is immeasurable,” he says. “I advise all of my scholars to do same when the time comes.”

— Michael Yockel