Romayne Wheeler was born in 1942 in St. Helena, California, pianist, composer, poet and painter. His first musical influences came from Latin America, where he learned how deeply music is rooted in nature. After finishing high school in Monterey Bay, California, he dedicated himself wholeheartedly to his professional studies in Salzburg and Vienna, Austria. In 1968 he graduated as a composer in the “Wiener Musikhochschule” (Vienna University of Music) and as a concert pianist in 1972, in the “Konservatorium der Stadt Wien” (Vienna Conservatory of Music). Now Romayne is celebrating 42 years of lengthy annual tours and only returns to his adopted homeland in the Sierra Tarahumara to rehearse, compose, write and paint in his place of refuge: The Eagle’s Nest, or “Rosorá a jué” in the Rarámuri language of the Tarahumara Indians. After travelling through 51 countries, he has fallen in love with the beauty and vastness of the Copper Canyon, the kind and serene manner of the Tarahumara natives and their inherent love for music. Since 1968, Romayne has performed as a pianist and composer in Europe, Canada, USA, Mexico, the Near East, China, Thailand, Nepal, Taiwan and Japan. As a composer he was determined to discover the intimate relationship between the natural world and the spiritual realm of the soul. As a musicologist he followed this goal while studying the hidden meaning in the Kachina Dances of the Hopi Indians, who live near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. While his work continued to grow following these parameters, Romayne got to know the indigenous Tarahumara (Rarámuri) who live in and around the area of the Copper Canyon and Batopilas Canyon in Western Chihuahua, Mexico.
He was welcomed by a nucleus of native families in the community of “Munérachi,” who adopted him as one of their own. During the first twelve years (1980-1992) he came as an annual visitor from Vienna to write and study their music. He lived for over two months each year in a cave near the high rim of the Munérachi Canyon. Here he stayed with his adopted Rarámuri family, always accompanied by a throng of curious and hungry children. From Vienna, he brought with him one of the first sampled piano keyboards, with the acoustic sound of a Steinway grand piano recorded note by note into the keyboard. It became known as “the solar piano” because the sound was amplified via the energy from solar panels. The sound of the piano filled the canyon and turned Romayne into a tourist attraction for the Tarahumara. They loved the crystal clear sound of the piano and would say: “play the so that it will rain!” The assimilation of another way of living and thinking led Romayne to take the crucial decision of leaving behind much of the modern world, with all of its advantages (and all of its traps) as well as its advances (and its pressures) and in 1992 he settled permanently with his Steinway concert grand piano in the high, rare and fascinating world of the Tarahumara. It became more interesting for him than travelling to a distant planet, because here he could draw near to the origins of mankind, where the person of most value is the one who contributes most to other’s wellbeing. Thus, Romayne became part of a community, which in the beginning was entirely unconnected to his childhood, but now has become an integral part of his world, his way of seeing things, their way of thinking, interpreting and sharing music. Since 1992, Romayne has been raising funds through his concerts, not only for his subsistence, but also to alleviate famine during the times of draught. His community (Munérachi) includes over 380 families, scattered in the highlands and in the depths of the canyons; some are even deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. For fifteen years (1985-2000) Romayne spent 3/4 of his income to help support the clinic “St. Teresita” in the town of Creel, in the high Tarahumara country – whose focus is mainly on the health care of Tarahumara Children. From the year 2000 on he has changed his emphasis to the health care of his community and to providing scholarships for children who desire to study beyond primary school. Thus many have been able to develop their potential, primarily becoming teachers and nurses in their own environment. One of his best known students is his first pupil and godson, Romeyno Gutiérrez Luna – son of his neighbor Juanito, who is also a gifted violinist. Romeyno is now a student in the Chihuahua Conservatory and is an up and coming composer and pianist, having performed in various venues in the United States and Mexico. The Eagle’s Nest is where Romayne desires to stay as long as God allows him to live; composing, exploring new repertoire, writing, painting and sharing life with his large extended family.
MY CAREER Throughout my career as a musician, painting and literature were always a source of inspiration and renewal. An open and comprehensive awareness of art, considers the five senses as fingers in one hand: the quintessence of life. All are intertwined and one influences the understanding and expression of the other, enriching our perception and feeling. The artist is spontaneous and free and refuses to be closed in a narrow chamber. He has learned the art of concentration and follows his own calling. His emotions resound through the expression of his music. His creativity is multidimensional and he is constantly opening new horizons. He is sensitive to all the experiences of life and his vision moves through the vastness of time. His ancestral memories surface exploring all possibilities of expression. For me, art is the Gateway to Infinity. Literature and painting are expansions of the music. They can capture the essence of life in a palpable and understandable language. The magnum telescope of my Third Eye – my Spiritual Eye – is in quest of what is everlasting. Here everything resolves and recedes into the millennia in the stratosphere. Music has always been the central axis sustaining me. However, I love life in a holistic manner and cannot separate the ear from the eye. I also listen through my vision and often, when I finish rehearsing on the piano, or after writing an essay, I feel a residue of longing emotion expressing itself through an image. I often draw using the calligraphy pens I use when writing my music. The ink drawing is essential to me. All other techniques are only additional tools of expansion and in some unexplainable way, everything is involved with my music. This is the reason why many of my exhibits are entitled “Musical Graphics.” To date, the vast majority of my exhibitions have been presented in combination with my concerts, often in the lobbies of concert halls, mainly in Austria, the USA and Mexico. It gives me great pleasure to share this aspect of my creativity with my audience. Hopefully some image might touch someone’s heartstrings and something significant might radiate through my “Musical Graphics.” WHY PAINT? At times my Inner Master questions me: “Why paint, when music already seems to encompass it all? What are you missing?” After a clarifying meditation, I respond: “Why paint? To feel the vibrations opening the seeds in the womb of Mother Earth. I exist to see, and perhaps transfigure, the reality surrounding me. Although it appears to only effect a minimal change, I enjoy the effort to create a small difference. Perhaps I can encourage and bring new meaning and light to someone who has lost enthusiasm and the joy of living.” “The impulses motivating me are rooted in the music and writings I compose from day to day.” “I live surrounded by endless mountains and canyon in the Sierra Tarahumara. Their beauty and grandeur envelope and renew me with their strength and magic, till everything within me expands and I become a part of it all.” “Nature is a mirror of what I am. Sometimes I feel refreshed, like a lush pine tree, or I am a playful squirrel, like a deer with the questioning eyes of a deceased person, or I am withdrawn, like a solitary peak.” “I explore the inner life of every living being, looking beyond the mask to recognize the hidden face. Then my pulse quickens its pace and I feel a rush of new energy. This invisible field of vitality is my support. However, I know my time is limited and I am just a beginner, an apprentice and it will take millenia for me to begin to grasp the fullness of life.” “My name is never final when I sign my scores, drawings and paintings. Every season is changing the signature of what I am.” “My Third Eye is a hologram of humanity and my ear probes enigmatic and mysterious rhythms and move the seeds to germinate and grow. I’m a metamorphosis of continuous creation, designing something unique in every experience.”