Park Profiles: Meet Raúl Prieto Ramírez!

Kristen MihalkoBalboa Park Cultural Partnership, One Park - One Team, Park Profiles

Raul is the newest Civic Organist and Artistic Director of the Spreckels Organ Society. His passion, technique, and style range led him to be the search committee’s unanimous choice in taking the role as the 8th person in history to hold the title of San Diego Civic Organist.  


  1.     When did you begin playing the organ and what made you decide to pursue it professionally?

I was eleven when I first discovered the organ while listening to the radio. I had never heard such a distinct sound, and began investigating what kind of instrument could make that sound in dictionaries, until I found out it was the organ. I am originally from a small town, so did not have a lot of access to the organ in my youth even though I already had a passion for the instrument. When I was 16, I made the decision to leave my town and move to Barcelona, where I attended a large music conservatory and was able to truly begin training and practicing. The organ is so interesting to me because it was considered one of the most difficult instruments to play and most complex human-made creations before the Industrial Revolution, yet it continues to be relevant being that it dates back to around 260 B.C. When it is played well it is truly fascinating to listen to.

  1.     What led you to Balboa Park and specifically, the Spreckels Organ?

I have always enjoyed sharing things with others, because that way I can enjoy it twice! What I love to share most is music, and the easiest way I can do so is to share through performing on stage. The Spreckels Organ gives me the opportunity to do just this. I get to play the largest outdoor musical instrument in the world with an audience of all ages! The Spreckels Organ is a genuine representation of the personality of the City and of San Diego residents who enjoy the genuine beauty of the outdoors.

  1.   What do you enjoy most about your role as an Artistic Director?

Everything! I am very creative and always have new ideas that I want to try and implement into my performances. As Artistic Director, I have the ability to create engaging opportunities. I feel it is important to perform but also to create opportunities for other top performers from around the world to come and share their talent on our stage. My role allows me to create chances like these for audiences of all ages here in San Diego.

  1.     What has been the most challenging and/or rewarding experience since taking over the role as Civic Organist?

The most challenging part has been trying to break the wall between the many cultural organizations and this one. The arts play an essential role in San Diego, and remind people how beautiful life and the world is. Arts and culture has to be an essential part of how San Diego is promoted, and it has been a challenge for the Spreckels Organ to become more involved in this process. The most rewarding experience is easily the audience. The audience in San Diego is wonderful, and they are so gratifying to play for.

  1.     What do you like to do outside of working here in the Park?

I love sports: swimming, tennis, roller skating, etc. I used to do lots of sports and want to get back into that. I am really hoping to take a surfing class here in San Diego as well! I also enjoy reading and am a huge aficionado of theatre.

  1.     Favorite song,TV Show, Book, and/or Movie?

I can’t pick a song as it depends on the day, and I do not have a TV, but my favorite Book is My Last Sigh: The Autobiography of Luis Buñuel. I am also currently reading a book by Walt Whitman. I can’t pick a favorite movie, but love the early black and white silent films, for example: “Entr’acte”.

  1.     What has been your favorite thing to do in San Diego since being here?

Play music! And making friends. People are very social and spontaneous in San Diego, which is very similar to Spain. You can get together with friends without having to plan it a week in advance!

  1.     What is your favorite spot in Balboa Park?

I have multiple favorite spots! Inside of the Museum of Man, in the main California Building, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion at night, the small garden and fountain between the House of Hospitality and Museum of Photographic Arts, and lastly, the Museum of Art’s room with religious paintings, which include works from Zurbarán. When I am tired of practicing, you can always find me in that room.