Acoustic guitarist Raphael Groten exhibited amazing patience in waiting until now to release his first solo recording, seeing as he has been playing the instrument for thirty years (and loving every minute of it). His story involves perseverance, happenstance, and coincidence, and even though the seeds of what germinated for years have finally sprouted with the release of 2015’s Journey Home, getting there involved some diversions as well as the development of a deep-rooted belief in a world of personal spiritual growth and a commitment to using his talent for the betterment of others.
Raphael Groten was born in Philadelphia on Christmas Day, 1973. He grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY in a true music-loving environment. From happy times as the family sang during long car trips to the sizable jazz and classical vinyl collection in the house (with a particular emphasis on bossa nova and Latin-influenced jazz) to the ubiquitous presence of multiple guitars during holiday gatherings, there seemed to be something musical going on at all times. Despite there being a piano available, Raphael’s first chosen instrument was the saxophone, beginning with alto in the 4th grade and graduating to tenor from grades 7 to 10. He picked up the guitar when he turned 13 and, as they say, the rest is history. First acquiring some informal music training from his mother and sister, Raphael then moved on to formal studies at the University of Vermont, where he majored in Philosophy and minored in Music.
Having been immersed in folk music since childhood, by the end of his Freshman year he had composed over 100 songs, often collaborating with friends when it came time to write lyrics. After graduation, he launched his own ten-piece Latin/jazz/funk ensemble, Saudade. The group performed extensively during the late ’90s in Burlington, Vermont, and released two albums of Raphael’s own compositions.
Even as he was experiencing success with his band, something stirred inside him, some part of him wanted to affect positive change in the world. In 1993, while taking a holistic health class, he met his first shamanic teacher, Susan Grimaldi. In 2001, she would reenter his life at a pivotal moment when he sought personal healing after his four and a half month old son was involved in a near fatal accident. That first night in intensive care he played guitar for his son, while the following day a therapeutic harpist paid them a visit in his son’s room, performing for them. It was at this moment that Raphael had an epiphany – his life calling was to compose, perform, and eventually record intentional healing music. Shortly thereafter, he began his shamanic studies, first with Grimaldi and then with Zacciah Blackburn in the field of Sound Healing. He graduated to become a practitioner himself, which he does to this date, offering Sound Circles, individual sessions, group work and apprenticeships, using voice, medicine drum, crystal bowl, flutes and more.
In addition to his work in the Sound Healing field, Raphael teaches music to children, using the folk tradition, music theory and song-writing as part of his teaching repertoire. He also holds private lessons for both guitar and ukulele. On the side, Raphael continues to offer his services as a contractor, carpenter, and furniture maker specializing in the use of reclaimed lumber, through his company, Barnoire Furniture and Cabinetry, which he began in 2001.
It was while sitting in one of his daily meditations in nature (he currently lives in a log cabin atop a mountain in Starksboro, Vermont) that yet another turning point occurred in Raphael’s life. He was moved, purely through intuition, to email one of his guitar tracks (“Black River”) to Will Ackerman, Windham Hill label founder and now owner of Imaginary Road Studios, also based in Vermont. In his email, Raphael requested a meeting to discuss the possibility of Will producing his first solo recording, featuring fingerstyle acoustic guitar. Fate smiled on him and Will responded the next day. A scant two months later, Groten’s debut, Journey Home, was recorded in just two days at Imaginary Road. The experience left a huge impact on Raphael, as he states “I would be remiss in not mentioning the enormous influence and presence of Will Ackerman in my life… I now see, first hand, how Will champions music of this nature.”
When asked about his music, Raphael replies with conviction: “To me, being a musician involves offering an uplifting, contemplative, and ultimately healing experience to each listener. As I play each concert and as I write and record each song, I imbue my music with mindful intention for the well-being and healing of all life.”