Ricardo's versatility performing different musical styles and strong abilities as a singer, pianist, and guitarist have given him the opportunity to work with top blues, country, rock, and salsa bands. Ricardo has had the honor to share the stage with Blues greats such as Alvin Bishop, Tommy Castro, Curtis Salgado, Deanna Bogart and Tab Benoit and he has opened concerts for Koko Taylor, Charlie Musselwhite, and Robben Ford to mention a few. He has performed and toured all over the US, as well as Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, England and France. In 2011 Ricardo won the International Blues Challenge as a member of the Lionel Young Band. The IBC is the largest competition of Blues bands in the world and it's held in Memphis, TN every year. This great honor gave him the opportunity to tour the US, Mexico and France with the Lionel Young Band and to perform at the Legendary Rhythym and Blues Cruise. The annual cruise features the best blues acts in the world and was referred to by Johnny Winter as "better than Woodstock!"
Ricardo's music training began at the early age of five in Mexico City, where he grew up. Over the next eleven years he studied piano with different teachers and then attended the National Conservatory of Music. At this time, he began teaching himself how to play guitar and sing. After moving to the United States (1985), he received classical training in piano performance at the State University of New York in Buffalo, under Russian professor Frina Boldt. During that time Ricardo also had the opportunity to learn from the world reknowned Russian classical pianist, Vladimir Feltsman.
After college, Ricardo furthered his training by immersing himself deeply into the blues. He learned more piano, guitar and singing through endless hours of studying artists such as Ray Charles, B.B. King, Robben Ford, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, as well as many old boogie woogie players. Although Ricardo already belonged to several amateur rock & roll bands, he began his professional career as a pianist playing blues.
As a struggling musician in need of more gigs in Buffalo, Ricardo also joined a salsa band. This put him back in touch with his Latin roots and was the gateway to discovering the wonderful world of Afro-Cuban music. Thus began his journey to explore a great diversity in musical styles. Ricardo has always been heavily influenced by rock artists such as The Beatles, Billy Joel, the Eagles, and Santana, by classical greats such as Bach, Beethoven and Chopin, and the Latin American music he grew up with, including Los Panchos. As a professional musician expanding his interests, he has studied and performed the music of great jazz artists such as Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Latin artists Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Ruben Blades, and country artists such as Vince Gill and Albert Lee, to name a few.
His time in Buffalo was the formative stage for him as a musician. He had the chance to play with top local artists and gain invaluable experience. After nine years, he was ready to move on. Although places like New York or Nashville were obvious relocation choices and definitely professionally appealing, Ricardo had something else inspiring him. As a child, he was taken on a hike to Popocatepetl, a 17,800 foot volcano overlooking Mexico City, and has loved mountains ever since.
Ricardo moved to the Denver area in 1996 because of his passion for mountaineering. He saw that Colorado would be a great place to pursue both music and mountaineering. Since then, he has climbed extensively in Colorado, and in many parts of the world. He has climbed 94 of the 100 highest peaks in Colorado as well as the highest peaks/high points in all 50 states in the US. He has climbed the highest mountain in South America (Aconcagua 22,843') 5 times, North America (Denali 20,320'), Europe (Mt.Elbrus 18,510'), Africa (Kilimanjaro 19,341') and Mexico (El Pico de Orizaba 18,405') over 50 times.
In February 12, 2005 Ricardo made a historic discovery that changed his life. High in the Andes he found a coat containing the wallet and passport of Eduardo Strauch, one of the famous Andes Survivors whose plane crashed in the Andes in 1972. That discovery connected Ricardo and Eduardo and a great friendship flourished. Ricardo has been involved in many projects and documentaries regarding the Andes Survivors since then. Ricardo currently guides expeditions to the Mexican volcanoes, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Nepal, the Andes Survivors site and many other peaks. Click here for more information on his mountaineering and the Andes Survivors.
While in Colorado, Ricardo's musical career has flourished. He partnered with Alfonso Murillo and formed the band Milestone. Ricardo sang lead, played guitar and keyboards, and Alfonso played guitar and they both wrote songs. They decided to explore what they called "Latin rock", Afro-Cuban rhythms with elements of rock and blues. The original line up included Ace Rodriguez on bass and Danny Cresap on drums. The band went through changes while playing extensively in the area, and eventually recruited Paul Marchetti on drums, Danny Olaizola on congas and Mickey Donofrio on bass. With this strong line up, Ricardo produced Milestone's album Our Truth in 1997. On this cd he wrote and arranged the majority of the songs, he sang lead on all the tracks, played organ, piano, requinto, a bit of percussion, some bass, back up vocals, and spotlighted some of his own lead guitar playing.
Throughout the years, Milestone players and its repertoire have evolved to cover a wider range of music, including Jazz and Afro-Cuban music. Ricardo reformed Milestone with guitarist Chris Malley, percussionist Eric Robnett, and back-up vocalist, Rebecca Folsom. Ricardo and Rebecca formed a successful working relationship that lasted many years- Rebecca sang back-ups for Milestone, and Milestone backed Rebecca (and was the beginning of the Rebecca Folsom band). It was during this time that they recorded the cd Many Miles, produced by Ricardo. Ricardo sang some leads and backup vocals, and played some lead guitar as well as piano and hammond organ on this album.
Ricardo and Milestone (now also commonly billed as the Ricardo Peña Band) have become regarded as one of the best bands in Colorado. Ricardo has also worked with many bands on the side including the (current) Rebecca Folsom band, La Candela, Quemando, Maynard Mills, Lionel Young, Sam Mayfield,The Denver Jazz Orchestra, Mark Diamond and the Heavy Cats, Raising Cain, The Denver Brass and many others.
Ricardo has become well known by many of Colorado's top musicians. He has developed a reputation not only as an extremely versatile and talented musician, but also as an accomplished producer and studio musician. He has produced more than 30 CD's, demos and recording projects. Ricardo released his all original solo cd The Future Is Here in April of 2003. The CD was reviewed in the internationally distributed magazine Musico Pro- "Peña's voice projects... strong and clear.... (and) his lyrics flow in both languages while his music is solid with a tight band that sails through different styles with ease." This CD as well as his past releases have sold very well at their live shows.
Ricardo has been recognized with many honors, including nominations for Western New York's Best Blues Keyboardist, Best Country Keyboardist, and Best Local Band. Westword's The Best of Denver 1997 awarded the Lionel Young Band, for which Ricardo was playing keyboards, the title of Best Blues Band. Music critics and fans alike have always been impressed with Ricardo's talent. The Buffalo News called Ricardo's performance "energetic and appealing" and applauded his display of "outstanding musicianship and vocal talent." To quote The Southern Mirror's Entertainment Review, "Peña is a wonder on lead guitar, piano/keyboards and vocals."
Ricardo's current band is his best line up ever and features some of the best musicians in Colorado. On guitar and vocals: Ed Edwards, bass: Mark Diamond, Vocals and percussion: Amy Biondo and drums: Dean Kielian. This band has been and continues to be very successful in the private scene performing for weddings, corporate parties and private parties as well as public concerts and some club work.
Besides being active as a music producer Ricardo can be found playing in many public and private events and venues. Denver's La Voz wrote, "Peña fits into these environments like a musical chameleon, equally at ease playing rock, salsa or Latin jazz...". Check his online performance schedule for details. He is available for and has extensive experience playing concerts, festivals, private parties, corporate events, and weddings.