Lily Ledesma Pan Diehl
For nearly forty years, Lily Pan Diehl has run a successful and financially viable piano studio in Loma Linda, California. Even though she had three graduate degrees and a secure university position, she took the risk of stepping out on her own and starting a private studio because she had found greater satisfaction in working with young students at the most impressionable period of their lives. Additionally, the flexibility of having a private studio enabled her to continue to perform as a soloist and devote more time to her two children.
Diehl, a pianist, singer, and musical prodigy, was born in the Philippines, the daughter of Philippine Union College (now Philippine Adventist University) professor and Mrs. L. L. Pan. When she graduated from Philippine Union College Academy in 1964, she would have been the recipient of the American Field Scholarship, a competitive national scholarship that would have paid all expenses for further music study in America, but for the conflict it created with her beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist. She refused to commit to play at social occasions on the Sabbath, even though given 48 hours to reconsider her stance on the issue.
Diehl instead completed a B.Mus. in 1966 at Santa Isabel College, the oldest Catholic girls' school in the Philippines, graduating at age eighteen as the youngest in her class and with highest honors. In that same year she won first place in the Manila Symphony Society's national Young Artist competition, under the patronage of President Marcos, and was featured soloist with the Filipino Philharmonic Orchestra, playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb, the "Emperor."
She was also offered a position at Kingsway College in Canada in 1966. The day before leaving for Canada she learned that she was the recipient of a scholarship award by the Music Promotion Foundation of the Philippines. After teaching for a year at KC, Diehl enrolled at Andrews University in 1967 and completed an M.Mus. in music education summa cum laude with piano as her performance area in 1968. She then taught in the university program. While at AU, she met and married Hans Diehl, a talented musician and pre-medicine student.
She subsequently completed an M.Mus. in piano performance at the University of Michigan and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern California. Her teachers included Ruth Slencynska, Hungarian pianist Gyorgy Sandor, Russian pianist Serge Tarnowsky, and Joanna Graudan.
She was teaching at California Baptist University in Riverside, California, when she made a decision to establish the Lily Diehl Music Studio in Loma Linda, California. After having taught at four institutions of higher learning, she had wearied of having to teach whoever happened to want credit and had signed up for piano. Even the best of those piano students had serious gaps in technique and in theoretical and musical understandings. The problem became increasingly apparent as she noted the progress of the younger students she was teaching in lessons off campus.
In 1975 she left the university position and established an independent studio. Since finances were a concern, she decided that if after three years she was unable to equal what she had been earning, she would return to a position in academia. Within eighteen months she was not only making more than she had previously, she was enjoying an intensely satisfying sense of professional fulfillment and freedom.
The freedom to innovate and experiment led to a strong conviction that the parent must be involved, not only attending the lessons and overseeing practice, but learning theoretical and musical concepts along with the student. Diehl refers to that cooperative effort as the "Triangle of Success." Basic to the success of that triangle is yet another of her beliefs that "learning is best accomplished within the context of a loving relationship."
The parent is encouraged to take notes and tape record observations made in the lesson for later reference. If a student is beginning instruction for the first time, Diehl meets privately with the parent ahead of the first lesson so that she or he is prepared to play the proper role in the child's learning experience.
She established a parents' guild, which includes a group of selected parents who, in addition to helping in various aspects of the program, also serve as a sounding board for new ideas or programs. Diehl observes that that group has been most helpful in both tempering and breathing life into her proposals.
The value of that group is best illustrated by what happened when she presented the idea of having a summer camp in the nearby cooler mountains. With their endorsement and support, the first Diehl Music Camp, with twenty-six piano students and two teachers, met. Within ten years the camp had grown to include over 400 students in many musical areas and a staff of twenty-three teachers.
In addition to private lessons, Diehl also provides group piano instruction, using the advantages of modern digital technology. Students from her studio, which has had as many as 125 students ranging in age from four through sixty-four, have done exceptionally well over the years in various competitions and festivals, often winning the majority of the awards.
Diehl, an inspiring teacher, is central to the success of this multi-faceted program. She is goal-oriented and disciplined, totally professional, yet full of fun-loving enthusiasm. These qualities have fostered excellence in musicianship, increased self-understanding, and personal growth in her students.
Her personal achievements in piano and voice and success with the leading singing roles in The Sound of Music in 1980 led the press in Southern California to refer to her as "Most Versatile Performer of the Year." Diehl has delighted audiences around the world with her art and her charm. She has performed before over 50,000 people in Europe and China, and recorded several albums. Her most recent CD recordings have received rave reviews.
As busy as she is in her private studio and with concertizing, Diehl has been and continues to be a cultural force in her community. She has served as a state officer and branch president of the Music Teachers Association of California and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Inland Empire Symphony Orchestra. She founded a professional girls choir and served as Executive Artistic Director of the DMC Young Musicians Christian Summer Camp mentioned earlier.
A sought-after state music examiner in California, she is also a faculty member of the American College of Musicians, functioning primarily as an adjudicator for the National Piano Guild Auditions.
In spite of her busy schedule, she and her husband, Dr. Hans Diehl, who directs the Lifestyle Medicine Institute, take their role as parents seriously. In 1989 Family Matters, Inc. chose them and their two children, Byron, a dental surgery student, and Carmen, a doctoral student in psychology at that time, as "Family of the Year.” They were cited for their encouragement and support of individual growth and creativity, their nurturing love and teamwork, and their friendship and service to others.
Sources: Information provided by and conversations with Lily Pan Diehl in 2001; B.B. Alsaybur, "Firm as a Rock for Principle," Far Eastern Division Outlook, January 1964, 10, and October 1966, 16; The Canadian Union Messenger, 25 December 1968, 519; The Lake Union Herald, 16 September 1969, 12; The Central union Reaper, 5 January 1971, 10; The Atlantic Union Gleaner, 25 April 1972, 6; Dan Shultz, "The Lily Diehl Music Studio," IAMA Notes, Winter/Spring 2001, 11,12.