I was born into a family of gifted musicians who encouraged and supported my musical education from an early age. My grandfather and my uncles played violin and my father and other uncles played Spanish guitar. My first music teacher was my father, Don Rafael Pazo, who taught me to play Spanish guitar when I was 4 years old. My mother also enrolled me in private piano lessons until I was accepted at the Escuela Libre de Música and the Instituto de Música Juan Morel Campos in my native Ponce, Puerto Rico, where I studied violin, viola, voice, theory, solfege counterpoint, choral music, ear training and music dictation. I sang in a boys’ choir, a youth chorale and played violin and viola in the institute’s chamber music orchestra and the youth symphony orchestra. While was in the 10th grade, I took additional private viola lessons with famed violist Maestro Guillermo Figueroa Sanabia at the Conservatorio de Musica de Puerto Rico in preparation to attend college at the conservatory and pursue a career in music. At the same time, I auditioned and played viola with the Puerto Rico Philharmonic Orchestra as one of its youngest members. At first, I did not score well enough in my audition to attend music Summer camp; but rather than being discouraged, I redoubled my efforts and study twice as hard and was accepted to attend music camps at the Puerto Rico Conservatory in San Juan, the Tanglewood Music Center and the Aspen Music Festival with full scholarships.
In 1982, my family relocated to California, and within days of my arrival I auditioned to play viola with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. During my Senior year of high school, I attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on a scholarship from an anonymous benefactor, who also provided me with a brand-new viola.
Always up for greater challenges, I took a great interest in the music of the Scottish Highlands, particularly the great highland bagpipes, and took private lessons with world-class champion piper Ian Whitelaw, and regularly attended summer sessions at the College of Piping, where I studied with world renowned piping instructors Dugald B. McNeill, Harry S. McNulty, Jimmy Goodwin, Aaron Shaw and Pipe Major Bruce Hitchings.
After many years in a career in science and business, and service in the United States Army, I was determined to continue my formal music education. I was accepted at the prestigious Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid (Royal Conservatory of Music in Madrid), where I studied music performance, chamber music, ethnomusicology, music pedagogy, viola, and orchestral directing. As part of my studies, I participated in many music festivals in the U.S. and abroad, as guest conductor, artist-in-residence, and solo performer and earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degrees of Fine Arts and Music. I also hold the following: Bachelor’s in Science(B.S.), Bachelor’s in Business Administration (B.S.B.A.), Master’s in Business Administration (M.B.A.), Master’s in Science (M.S.), Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in International Relations and Trade, and Doctorate in Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Comparative Religion.
I also love to sing, particularly A Capella and Barbershop Harmony: I sing Bass with the Stockton Chorale, Baritone with Voices of California and the Stockton Portsmen Barbershop Chorus, and also sing Tenor with Notable Vintage Quartet, a male A Capella quartet.
I love to play the bagpipes – and several other musical instruments – and perform regularly at weddings, memorials, funerals, patriotic events, graduation ceremonies, corporate events, sporting events, private parties, educational presentations, theater and film productions, and many other occasions.
I hired Dr. Pazo to play the bagpipes at my fathers graveside service. My father loved bagpipes. I contacted Dr. Pazo the night before the service hoping for the best, and I got the very best. Even with such short notice, Dr. Pazo knew exactly what to do, and coordinated the details with our pastor and the military honor guard. His demeanor was very professional, kind and patient. He took the time to listen to my requests and questions and answered them clearly. I met Dr. Pazo on the day of the service and was impressed by his appearance in uniform, which was very elegant and beautiful. His music was absolutely divine and his playing of “Amazing Grace” and “Flowers Of The Forest” were the very best I have ever heard on bagpipes. But the most wonderful thing is how humble, caring and sympathetic he is a person. I highly recommend him to anyone who is looking for the best piper, a professional musician and a wonderful human being!The best piper ever, very professional and elegant; a wonderful human being!
Thank you Raphael for playing the Scottish Highland Bagpipes and Scottish Small Pipes at my mother 101th Birthday Celebration last weekend. Your music was the highlight of the event; many of our guests who are from Scotland commented how beautifully you played the bagpipes. Thank you for playing every song we requested, for playing the additional songs, and take additional requests from our family members and guests; everyone loved it. Your playlist was very diverse and thorough and we enjoyed every single song.
My parents were both born and raised in in Scotland, and met and married during WWII. My father served in Scottish Regiment and always enjoyed the music of bagpipes. At their wedding in 1940, they had one the regiment’s piper play for them. My mother loved Highland Dancing and even competed for many years. Everyone was surprised when my mother go up and started dancing a reel and jig she requested.
Thanks again for making this day a magical event!