Raised by Benedictine nuns in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Raphael learned classical music and Gregorian chants during his solitary childhood. From the age of 13, he felt a strong connection to baroque music, particularly the works of Antonio Vivaldi, the 18th-century violinist and composer who was himself a Catholic monk. In reaction to his strict upbringing, however, Raphael plunged wholeheartedly into the late-'60s San Francisco scene. Yet even as he explored rock & roll and tribal music, he never lost his love of his classical roots and occasionally admitted to feeling like a reincarnation of Vivaldi. After a period playing Gypsy violin on the streets of the city, dressed like a European count, Raphael completed piano and composition studies at the San Francisco Conservatory. A 12-year stint as staff musician at the Esalen Institute at Big Sur helped him consolidate his ideas on the role of music in healing and relaxation. His resonant albums of neo-romantic music make perfect sense considering his background. Sweeping grand piano, ethereal violin solos, sparkling synthesizer textures, and floating chorales sound like Rachmaninoff and Paganini reeling through space with a chorus of liberated nuns (conducted from the great beyond, no doubt, by Vivaldi himself). It's an irresistible formula -- Raphael's music has attracted a broad following of enthusiastic fans. Now based in Maui, Hawaii, Raphael records for Kahua Records, a label he formed in 1992. ~ Linda Kohanov

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