- Certificate in Arranging and Composition, Berklee College of Music, Boston
Adjunct Professor, Contemporary Piano
A composer, arranger, producer, songwriter, and jazz pianist, Mr. Pantoja teaches applied contemporary keyboard, composition, and song writing, in addition to leading student pop ensembles in the Music in Worship department. He is passionate about passing down his musical knowledge, and about mentoring his students in their faith and in their everyday lives. Linzy Spann Westman ('10) shares how inspiring it was for her to work with Mr. Pantoja: "Rique cares deeply about every student who walks through his doors and works hard to give each of us the tools and skills we need to achieve our personal musical goals. He inspires us to strive for excellence, but also challenges us in our creativity through songwriting and improvisation. More than anything, he has taught me that with some key tools, a lot of practice, and confidence in the gifts God has given me, I have the ability within me to create music that I never thought was possible. Rique is an amazing example of someone who honors the Lord on and off stage, and I seek to do the same now in my endeavors."
Education & Influences
Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mr. Pantoja's interest for music began within his family atmosphere that celebrated music; in his teen years, this love grew as he studied the guitar and piano. When he was 19, he moved to the United States to study at Berklee, and after three and a half years, he left for a professional opportunity. While in Boston, he was profoundly influenced by Charles Banacos, a renowned jazz pianist, composer, and teacher. Pantoja recalls Banacos's ability to multi-task in teaching students the various essentials of musicianship: "He had a very unique way to assess a student's abilities and work all the different areas to develop rhythm, ear training, and technique, along with an in-depth focus in harmony." He recalls how exciting it was to study music in a culture different from his own, and he acknowledges God as the one who guided him to study in the US. When asked what he would say to international students who are hesitant about leaving home to pursue their calling, he said, "Seek Him with all your heart in prayer, and He'll show you the way."
After Berklee, his life as a professional musician took flight with a two-year period in Paris playing with important jazz musicians such as Chet Baker. Since then, he has performed on stage and in the recordin studio with artists such as:
Most recently, in 2013, he performed a series of concerts in the South of France, including a performance at the Conilhac Jazz Festival. (You can read an article that gives the highlights of that tour here: http://academics1.biola.edu/music/news/article/201...)
Recognized as a skilled keyboardist, he is also respected internationally as a composer, arranger, producer, singer and songwriter. He has written, performed and recorded pieces of music for television, radio, and film including:
His compositions encompass numerous styles, including pop, jazz, and gospel. In 2008, "I Believed It," a song he co-wrote with Zoë Theodorou, won the Covenant Award in Canada for "Jazz/Blues Song of the Year."
He is also active employing his gifts in local churches. Some of his roles include:
Besides teaching at Biola, Mr. Pantoja also leads workshops at many schools in the U.S. including Pepperdine University's Malibu campus, as well as internationally. His heart for teaching extends to his involvement in RYTMO (Reaching Youth Through Music Opportunities), a program that partners with the Berklee College of Music's City Music Network to offer musical training and life skills to youth at risk in Anaheim.
Faith in Action
Some of the most memorable moments of his career stem from seeing the spiritual impact of his music on the lives of his listeners. He recalls "I had trained to be a professional musician and did not know how God would use my life. When I went to Angola (Africa) with Franklin Graham, I was asked during the crusade if I could come and sing a song for the event they had prepared for the kids. It was a very poor area, and there were over 15,000 kids. When I got there, the person organizing the event asked me if I could go up on the platform and play by myself an altar call song. That took me by surprise! I thought, 'What can I sing for kids that are so young that would help them give their hearts to the Lord?" So, I prayed and asked God to help me write a song right there. In 10 minutes, I wrote a simple melody with words that any kid could learn. One of the most memorable moments of my life happened right there when I heard them singing and giving their hearts to Jesus." Mr. Pantoja also had the opportunity to play for crusades taking place in Brazil and to share the music he had composed with his home country. He notes, "I was humbled and thankful in seeing how God would open an opportunity for me to lead worship in a setting of over 80,000 people singing some of my songs in Portuguese."
Being involved in both secular and sacred realms of music-making, he says that he doesn't make a distinction between these two seemingly dissimilar fields. "The gifts that God gave me are part of the life that I've surrendered to Him, so wherever I go or whenever I play, it's dedicated to Him and my prayer is that He'd use it for His glory." He encourages young musicians who feel a divide between working in Christian music versus secular music to seek God in prayer to have wisdom to choose job opportunities wisely so that they may be "salt and light under His protection." Having traveled extensively, he is burdened to see how many people have not opened their hearts to Christ, yet is encouraged to see how God is working in him to be a minister of God's love. "God has given me grace and has been teaching me how to love people into His kingdom."
Having a teaching career that spans over 20 years, Mr. Pantoja found his love of music education in his interactions with students who were eager to learn and who grew both in skill and in their enjoyment of music. He has taught at Biola since 2006 and is blessed by the environment in which faculty and students are committed to Christian values and to excellence. He shares, "It's great to work with a team of highly-gifted professional teachers that share a love for the students and have a real understanding of what the music industry is like." His hope is that at Biola, he can serve as both a role model and a source of inspiration in his love for God, the Word, music, and creativity.
Rique Pantoja's personal website: www.riquepantoja.com
RYTMO (Reaching Youth Through Music Outreach): http://rytmo.org/