By Danny Ritz
Much like the classical music he plays, Randy Pile, of San Clemente, continues to inspire.
His lifelong loyalty to the craft, both in honing his talents and sharing his knowledge, has been a large part of maintaining his health and happiness into his 60s. As a student, a performer, and an educator, Pile has enriched many lives across the world in addition to his own.
At 63, Pile has been playing the classical guitar for over 50 years. Born in North Dakota, he first picked up the nylon-stringed instrument at age 10.
“It was my brother’s,” Pile recalled. “I don’t think he ever learned, because I always had it!”
After learning his fundamentals through lessons, Pile had his first experience teaching when he took a job conducting guitar lessons at a local music store at 15 years of age in Northern California.
“I guess you could say I’ve been teaching ever since” he said.
Infatuated with the instrument, Pile found himself unable to join in the rock n’ roll and pop music groups his peers were starting at the time.
“With pop music, I find that the first time I hear it, it’s the best. It’s a powerful art form, and each subsequent listening awakens great memories for me,” Pile said. “With classical music, I find that each time I listen to it, it reveals something new to me. It isn’t reminiscent; it’s alive, active.”
Following his passion, Pile studied music at the University of California Berkeley, where he earned his bachelors of music.
After learning that the internationally renowned guitarist Pepe Romero, the son of universally recognized Celedonio Romero of “Los Romeros: The Royal Family of the Guitar,” would be moving from teaching at the University of Southern California to The University of California-San Diego, Pile made the immediate decision to become his understudy.
The move to Southern California opened unprecedented doors for Pile as he not only earned a masters and later a Ph.D. studying under Romero, Sr., but he also managed to step into “Los Romeros,” with Celedonio, Celin, and Pepe. Stepping in for either one of the sons or the father, Pile began traveling the world playing 5-star concert venues for elite musical audiences.
After gaining international respect traveling as a member of the highest regarded Spanish guitar ensemble in the world, Pile returned home to Southern California.
Pile became a touring artist for the California Arts Council, where he traveled the state with other Californian artists playing shows as well as entering the local music education programs.
In 2000, the Arts Council ran out of funding, and Pile began receiving calls to teach in Orange County.
Today, Pile teaches at Orange Coast College and Saddleback College and occasionally gives private lessons. Pile said he has recognized his potential to inspire the youth.
“In more guided classes, you might have five or six special students, and they might make something of themselves,” Pile said. “That’s great, really great, but they usually wind up with a high level of skill and possibly a poor quality of life. I enjoy introducing the art to many students and seeing 50 sets of eyes light up, seeing 50 sets of eyes realize how special and how personal this is.”
The personal experience of the classical guitar is important to Pile.
“I never really knew where this was all going,” he said. “I just like to think that I made myself available to the opportunities. I had opportunities to do other things, to take jobs I wouldn’t like, or relocate, and I just stuck with what I actually loved. It isn’t hard; music is so fulfilling.”
Now, after years of teaching heavily, Pile says that performance opportunities are becoming prevalent again. He recently returned from Canada after performing for guitar societies, guitar festivals, and in major concert halls.
When asked about what his experience with music was like these days, Pile said, “If you don’t learn when you’re young, it becomes too intellectual when you’re older, more complex. For me now, it’s intuitive. Music’s simple.”
By keeping his passion a central component in his life choices, Pile continues to play a song we can all enjoy and grow from.
Read more of our Aging Well special section here:
Discussion about this post