Hero image Mengenang Warisan Dr. Johannes Sebastian Nugroho

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Remembering the Legacy of Dr. Johannes Sebastian Nugroho

Dr. Johannes Sebastian Nugroho, the former dean of UPH Conservatory of Music (2005-10) and a brilliant pianist and a highly respected pedagogue, passed away peacefully on January 9, 2024, at the relatively young age of 53 after a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer. He was survived by his wife, Candy Yahya, and three children. 

Dr. Nugroho will always be remembered as a remarkable musician who believed that he could make a difference in other people’s lives through music. For him, music was not only about performance, or creating beautiful melodies that bring joy, happiness and satisfaction. He always believed that learning music formed the context in which he could make a profound impact in other people’s lives. 

One of the most touching moments in Dr. Nugroho’s career at UPH was when he used to teach music to faculty staff and outsourcing personnel during his free time. Dr. Nugroho was also actively engaged in charitable activities outside of campus, one being his work to help special needs children through learning music. 

Dr. Nugroho’s love for music began at an early age. Born in Pekalongan, Central Java, on May 12, 1970, Dr. Nugroho was introduced to music by his father who bought him a piano at the age of 9 when he was still in fifth grade. “My father loved music and dreamt of becoming a musician but his wish was strongly opposed by his parents who wanted him to become a doctor instead. But still, he surreptitiously taught himself to play violin. Perhaps he was hopeful that I, his eldest child, could someday realize his dream when named me Johannes, after Johannes Brahms, and Sebastian, after Johann Sebastian Bach. My father was my inspiration,” he was once quoted as saying, adding that his original dream was actually to become an architect.  

His burning passion for music would later lead him to build up impressive academic credentials. After graduating from Sekolah Musik YPM, one of the oldest music schools in Indonesia, in 1991, he got a scholarship to study music in the United States of America, graduating with Bachelor of Music (BM) and Master of Music (MM) degrees from Towson University, recognized as having one of the finest music programs in Maryland, and culminating with a Doctor of Music from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. There, he had the privilege to study music under the tutelage of world-renowned piano maestros such as Reynaldo Reyes, Roman Lebedev, Gyorgy Sebok and Reiko Shigeoka Neriki.  

His other achievements include performances at some of the world’s sought after performance venues, including Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall and Konzerthaus Berlin. Over the course of his career, he won many prestigious awards, most notably first prize at the 1991 Peggy Yale Gordon Piano Competition, first prize at the 1992 Aber D. Unger Piano Competition, prize winner at the 1993 Towson University Talent Award Competition, first prize at the 1994 Peggy Friedmann Piano Competition, first prize at the 1994 Henry Sanborn Piano Competition, first prize at the 1995 Sarah Stulman Zierler Piano Competition and prize winner of the 1999 St. Charles International Piano Competition in Chicago.  

After spending 13 years in the US honing his musical skills, he returned to Indonesia after learning that UPH had established a music faculty and was seeking world-class faculty members. During his deanship, key measures were carried out to internationalize the standard of the curriculum and meet the evolving needs of more specialized and competitive graduates in the future. One such measure is the development of music education minor into two tracks – school teaching and individual teaching.   

Furthermore, new facilities were built to enhance learning and promote creativity. National-scale music events and competitions were held to enhance the faculty’s recognition and image. Lecturer performance and student achievement were vastly increased. Students were required to organize music performance on Monday afternoon every week to overcome their stage fright. Orchestra, choir and ensembles were pioneered in a more professional setup. The faculty started to receive visits from reputable music schools from overseas and establish international collaborations. UPH Conservatory of Music started to become a force to be reckoned with.  

After completing his term as Faculty Dean, Dr. Nugroho continued to teach at UPH Conservatory of Music as senior semi full-time lecturer. He also frequently gave piano masterclasses outside UPH. As part of his contribution, he also composed two songs, “Mimpi Anak Bangsa” (Dream of the Nation’s Children) to commemorate the 2019 National Education Day and “Beyond This Valley” which he wrote after he was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.  

“Pak Jo’s passing is a great loss for the Conservatory of Music in particular and UPH community in general. He had led many major initiatives to elevate the profile of the music faculty. He was highly-talented and accomplished yet humble and down to earth; an affable and approachable figure, always treating everyone with kindness, warmth and respect. He will be greatly missed,” said the faculty’s administrative director Adriani Gunawan, referring to his term of endearment.  

Dr. Nugroho always attributed all of his achievements in life were only by God’s grace. “As a man of faith, I surrender completely to God. I could complete my doctorate, learn from special teachers, that’s because God has opened up the path in my life and allowed me to find my life’s calling in music,” he was quoted as saying in an interview with Staccato magazine.   

Before his passing, Dr. Nugroho composed this beautiful and contemplative poem:  

At times,
God leads us  
Through green pastures  

Other times,
God leads us
Through the fiercest storms
He may calm the storms
He may not
But for sure
he will deliver us through  

Tears of pain and suffering
On the surface,
but deep within
the Peace of God reigns

Rest in peace, Dr. Johannes Sebastian Nugroho. You have left an indelible legacy and may it live on in the memories of those who know you and provide strength and comfort for the loved ones you left behind in this time of sorrow.  

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) 

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