Dr. Raphael Pazo, Highland Bagpiper

My Musical Journey

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 (O.B.M.), 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. I 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.