- B.A., Political Science, with a Music Minor, California State University, Fullerton
Adjunct Professor, Jazz Piano
An acclaimed jazz pianist, Ron Kobayashi actively performs all over the West Coast, and his vast breadth of knowledge comes from a diversity of experiences throughout the history of his career as a composer, performer, and musical director. As a Conservatory faculty member, he enjoys passing on his knowledge and passion for music to Biola students through teaching a Jazz Improvisation course. Alumnus Joel Balzun ('13) has observed Mr. Kobayashi's ability to communicate both the important techniques and harmonic theory behind jazz and the joy of making music. “Mr. Kobayashi makes improvisation accessible and fun—as it should be! In my class, I saw some of my friends who had never had any jazz experience before transform into improvising machines. He also cares very much for his students. A talented and godly musician, Mr. Kobayashi was certainly one of my favorite professors at Biola!"
His motivation to pursue a musical career came from recognizing his stewardship over his musical talent. “I realized that I had been given this gift from God that I must attempt to share," he writes. He says that he was especially encouraged by his first classical piano teacher, Dorothy Neece and his first jazz teacher Dick Powell. He recalls, “They were so patient and always gave positive reinforcement to me. I'll never forget that."
Teachers include Dick Powell, Paul Smith, and Kei Akagi.
Mr. Kobayashi has received attention and high commendation for his work as soloist and performer. He was a featured performer on the internationally distributed “Johnny Yune" television show, on a 1989 segment of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, and on the 2002 “Jerry Lewis Telethon." In addition, he has performed with actress Jackee' Harris for an episode of “Life After" on the TVONE television network. Mr. Kobayashi has also recorded as a solo artist for the Casierra Record label. In 1992, he was chosen to play for President Bill Clinton during his visit to Orange County. “He almost sat in with us on saxophone!" Mr. Kobayashi remarks. Another high-profile accomplishment was his service as Music Director for the Annual Hollywood Diversity Awards from 2001 to 2005; celebrities such as Chris Rock, Vince Vaughn, and George Lopez were honored during his time as director.
On stage, Mr. Kobayashi has collaborated with many artists, including:
He has also shared the stage with comedian Bob Saget. When asked about his musical career, Mr. Kobayashi notes that the breadth of his experience has caused him to become more flexible as a performer: “By working with a variety of musicians and performers, I've learned to be diverse in my skills so as to accommodate any possible musical requirement."
Mr. Kobayashi performs alongside bassist Baba Elefante and drummer Steve Dixon as the Ron Kobayashi Trio, which has received high acclaims from Southern California audiences. Their most recent record, “No Preservatives," (released by Carpet Cat Records) was highly praised by the Los Angeles Jazz Scene newspaper and by the Orange County Register, which noted, “If you define jazz, at least partly, as spontaneity, emotional expression, and communication among musicians, you won't find anything better than “No Preservatives."" The LA Times calls the group “superb jazz stylists." The LA Times notes that Mr. Kobayashi's compositions “demand attention and get it."The trio was voted “Best Jazz Group in Orange County" in 1996 by the readers of the Orange County Weekly, and in 2012, they were also nominated for “Best Jazz" at the Orange County Music Awards. In light of all the accolades he has received, he notes that the most important thing is to always remember the source of music. “Never forget: musical talent is a gift from God."
Touring throughout California, Nevada, and Florida, the Ron Kobayashi Trio, has also shared the stage with artists including David Sanborn, the rock group “Berlin," Eddie Palmieri, David Benoit, Cirque Du Soleil, Struntz and Farah, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. The trio has released three records so far. Their recordings have aired worldwide, and they reached the “Top 10 Playlist" on KAWC in Arizona. He recalls the memory of hearing a portion of his CD on the radio for the first time: “I remember the first time I heard a cut from my CD played on a Los Angeles jazz station while I was driving in the car. I screamed out in the excitement!"
In addition to his work at Biola, Mr. Kobayashi is also a faculty member at the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, CA and a staff instructor for the Music Factory in Costa Mesa.
Faith in Action
Mr. Kobayashi has served as music minister at the Congregational Church of Fullerton for more than 30 years. Though he is so active in “secular" realms of music, he notes that he doesn't see a big difference between the music he plays on Sunday and the music he plays throughout the week. “I see performing music as a gift from God, and as musicians, we should be glorifying the Creator in every note we play." This also translates into how he relates to those with whom he works. Noting that there are can be people in the field with whom it can be difficult to cooperate (as in any other business), Mr. Kobayashi says, “The key as a Christian is to remember our calling and to always deal with people in the way we would want to be dealt with by others."
Teaching music for nearly 30 years, Mr. Kobayashi has been a Biola faculty member since 2008. He enjoys watching his students grow musically, and especially appreciates his interactions with Biola students. “I absolutely love the students. They are respectful and dutiful. It is really a wonderful campus environment." His joyful attitude that is so evident in the classroom is part of what he hopes to impart to the Conservatory's students. “By playing with joy, we are glorifying the Lord."