As a performer
Born in Mexico, raised in the United States, Rafael Antonio made his orchestral debut with the Romanian National Opera and Ballet Orchestra in Constanţa in 2013. He returned the following year to conduct this orchestra in a special Easter week concert featuring soloists and chorus from the Teatro National “Oleg Danovsky,” and had the pleasure of conducting the Pazardjik Philharmonic in Bulgaria during this same visit to Eastern Europe. Selected as a Conducting Fellow with the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica (2015), Rafael served as Assistant Conductor with the Boulder Philharmonic for two years during his doctoral residency.
Invited to attend the “Conductors Lab” in Aix-en-Provence (France), Rafael studied with an ensemble of ten musicians from the Berlin Philharmonic in master classes and conducting sessions. He participated in the “Black Sea Conducting Festival” in Constanţa where he was awarded second prize and an invitation to conduct the Romanian National Opera Orchestra in a full concert performance. Following these successful endeavors, Rafael had the pleasure of hosting Mr. Fergus McWilliam, horn player with the Berlin Philharmonic, as a soloist with the National Band of San José in Costa Rica, along with American band conductor Dr. Thomas Verrier.
Rafael served as Artistic Director for the Orquesta Sinfónica Manuel María Gutiérrez, the national youth symphony orchestra representing the Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical in the Ministry of Culture of Costa Rica. He regularly appears as guest conductor (since 2007) with the National Bands of Costa Rica, sharing his interpretive experience as an orchestral conductor with these fine professional ensembles.
Rafael’s background as a jazz pianist brings a unique and intimate perspective to his musical interpretations. He collaborates with musicians with a clear sense of purpose and intention, yet is profoundly respectful of the dignity and humanity that each musician represents within the orchestra. Phrase and detail, emotive, energetic and purposeful, these are the characteristics that make Rafael Antonio so compelling on the podium.
Currently on the music faculty at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Rafael received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Orchestral Conducting and Literature from the University of Colorado in Boulder. His conducting studies include with Italian maestro Alfredo Bonavera, winner of the prestigious Mitropoulos conducting competition in 1969 and Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1969 – 1970, with American conductor Carl St. Clair, director of the Pacific Symphony in California and the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica, and with Gary Lewis, director of the Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale in Texas, and head of the conducting studio at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Rafael's work as a conductor has taken him to Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Romania, Bulgaria, and France. Upcoming engagements include leading a national conducting seminar in Costa Rica followed by participation in a music conference in Colombia in October, and an appearance as guest conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra of Cusco in Peru in November 2023.