Nathan Pacheco: Consecrating Our Talents
Nathan Pacheco was a senior at Brigham Young University when he heard Elder Jeffrey R. Holland make a statement that gave him the courage to pursue a career in music. He has since learned that sometimes dreams come true quickly and other times a bit more gradually. He has also found that dreams can change with time and sometimes living out those dreams looks different than we anticipated but if we consecrate those talents to the Lord, we will discover something even greater than we imagined.
ERIN HALLSTROM: What does it look like to consecrate our lives to God? Consecration is the action of making or declaring something sacred. It is a beautiful concept, but is it realistic in practice? On today's episode, we learn what Jeffrey R. Holland said that inspired Nathan Pacheco to consecrate his talent and pursue his dream.
A little background on Nathan Pacheco: Nathan is a classically trained tenor, who's performed all over the world, including touring the United States, Canada, and Mexico with Yani. In 2017, Nathan released his first spiritual album, Higher. He resides in Nashville with his wife and three children.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, "what does it really mean to be 'all in' the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Erin Hallstrom, and I'm thrilled to have Nathan Pacheco here with me today.
Nathan Pacheco: Hey, thanks so much
EH: I said it wrong, didn't I?
NP: Well, I pronounce it Pacheco, but people pronounce it all differently.
EH: I practiced it and I asked. So actually, that's a great first question. How should everyone be pronouncing your last name?
NP: Well, I was raised pronouncing it Pacheco. And I'll explain why. So my grandpa was from Southern Brazil and the Portuguese language, the c-h's are pronounced like an s-h. So instead of Pacheco, which it's pronounced in Mexico and other places because you know a lot of people with that last name there. But in Brazil, it's pronounced with, you know, as if it were an s-h, so Pacheco
EH: Okay. Does everyone butcher your last name?
NP: Pretty much, but it's okay. I don't mind it at all.
EH: It's a great talking point, right? It's the first thing you could say. NP:, thank you.
NP: Yes, ma'am.
EH: When did you first know you love to sing?
NP: Well, my mom tells me, I don't remember this because I was two, but she said that I would be in the grocery cart at the grocery store and I'd be singing to the top of my lungs. And I was coined the "singing baby" by all the people in the grocery store. So that's what my mom tells me, I don't remember that, of course. But I remember even when I was in, I guess when I was a sunbeam and when we'd sing "Sunbeam" in primary, and I just remember singing to the top of my lungs. I loved singing in church, I loved the Disney movies and singing along with those. I guess it's always been something that I've loved to do. But it wasn't until high school that I started to take it more seriously and start taking voice lessons. At the time my older sister was studying opera and so I would listen to her and I also, you know, grew up listening to classical music, listening to "The Three Tenors" and so I just love that style of music. So I started taking lessons to try to learn how to sing that way. And you know, it's just a process. And then I just realized how much I loved performing, I loved singing, I love connecting with people through music. And it just kind of this passion of mine that I've had for as long as I can remember, it just continued to grow and it's still inside me.
EH: So music is clearly a family affair in your house. You come by it honestly.
NP: Yes. My mom taught piano out of the home and so we were all raised-- I mean we were, let's see, before school, we had to wake up and practice piano before going to school. And so we all had music in our lives and when we'd come home from school, my mom would be teaching piano out of the home, we'd always be hearing music. And some of us were crazy enough to go into music and others, you know, went into, I guess, things like being a lawyer and computer work and things that are perhaps not as crazy and adventuresome as the music business.
EH: So you might have already answered this. But my next question is, when did you first know you were really good at singing?
NP: Well, still working towards that.
EH: Oh please, no. I appreciate the humility. I've heard you sing.
NP: Well, I remember trying out for show choir in middle school and I did not make it.
NP: And I did not make it. And even in high school, I didn't really think that I had anything to offer that was necessarily better than anyone else. But my choir teacher, Mrs. Stanford, to this day, I love her, she was one of the best teachers I've ever had. But she came up to me when I was a freshman and she said, "Hey, I heard that you're really talented singer. I'd like for you to try out for show choir." And I was like, "Okay," and so I did. And I happened to make it and then every now and then I would try out for solos in the choir. And then I got involved with the high school musicals and I guess I started to realize, okay, well, maybe, maybe I should pay attention to singing and focus on this because maybe I do have a gift with this. And it's that's been a work in progress. And I'm still taking lessons because I believe that, you know, it's always a matter of trying to improve. And because if I don't practice, I can't hit the high notes anymore.
NP: Yeah. It's been interesting to me because it really is just like a muscle. You, I mean, you use it or lose it. And so when I, for example, if I get sick and I can't sing for a couple of weeks, and then I have to, not that I have to start from ground zero, but I, you know, there's quite a bit of work to get my voice back into shape until I feel comfortable singing the high notes without blowing my voice out.
EH: So I think this every time the Olympics rolls around because you watch these Olympic athletes on something that you've never tried, right? You'll be watching like Javelin or something. And every time I think, "I wonder if I would have been an amazing Javelor." Javelor? Is that a word?
NP: I don't know what the word is. Javelin person?
EH: But do you see what I'm saying? Because I never tried it, I have no idea. I'm guessing I wouldn't have been, just based off of my general— but that's neither here nor there. But that's an interesting point you make, which is that you have clearly this talent but if you stopped using it, you maybe wouldn't lose it altogether, but the notes and the heights that you're able to go to, would be harder to reach.
NP: Right. And that's definitely the case. And it teaches me a lot. So there's a phrase in the scriptures, "small and simple things." "By small and simple things, great things are brought to pass." And I think about that all the time, not only when it comes to things in the gospel and trying to feel close to the Lord. But also, I mean, that has been the lesson that I learned over and over again, with singing, with voice lessons, with practicing consistently. Many times, I don't leave voice lessons with this huge aha moment, "Oh, my goodness, I can finally sing." And many times, when I'm practicing, it's not like, "Oh, my gosh, that was so worth it." Many times, there's a bit of drudgery involved, or I'm just kind of going through the motions because I know that it's important for me to do that. But it's over time that I'm able to recognize the differences.
For example, about 12 years, I could not hit high notes. I just couldn't. And it was through studying with the teacher and just constant practicing, that, I wasn't able to hit high notes overnight, but about a year after that point, I happened to be in the studio working with Yani, the Greek piano player, composer and I was singing these notes that I had not been able to sing a year prior to that point. And I realized, oh, my gosh, I finally hit high notes. And it was just, it was just this gradual process where the hard work, the effort, the small and simple things were all worth it.
EH: Oh, I love that. So you were raised in the church?
NP: I was
EH: And you mentioned the comment about Sunbeams.
EH: So what spiritual music made an impression on you early on. Was there a particular song you love to sing or a hymn?
NP: I always, to this day, I remember sitting in primary and listening to the hymn, "Because I Have Been Given Much." Not because I necessarily loved the music, per se, but I just loved the message. And there was something about it that was just, I feel it was speaking truth to my heart at the time.
EH: What do you think we learn about God through music?
NP: A lot.
NP: At least for at least from my experience one of the-- Okay, so have you ever seen the movie "Chariots of Fire?"
NP: So you know, Eric Little, he basically is talking to a sister and he basically says, you know, "When I run, I feel God's pleasure." Or in other words, it was through using his gift that he felt close to the Lord. And I love that movie and I love that line because one of the reasons why I love music is not only because music is beautiful, and it's a neat way to connect with people, and all of that. But one of the reasons why I love music is because it is one of the ways that I feel closest to the Lord. And it's also one of the ways that I learn more about him. And it's hard to explain, but there have been many times in my life when, when I've been pretty low and it's been through music that I feel like the Lord has been able to get through to me, and reach me, and teach me things that perhaps I wasn't able to, that I would not have been able to learn just through the spoken word. And so I really do believe that music is a gift from heaven. And that good music really does have the potential of opening our hearts in a way and helping us understand and learn things that we perhaps wouldn't be able to learn in any other way.
EH: I felt that in my life. I mean, I don't have as much of a tie or a pull to music. But when I have moments of darkness or weakness, the quickest, fastest, easiest way to get connected to the spirit is by singing a hymn. Whether in my head or out loud. You know, I just think it is completely true. It's just it's almost like the quickest spark to the spirit maybe. I don't know. It's beautiful.
NP: Yeah, I agree.
EH: So you served a mission?
NP: I did.
EH: Where did you serve?
NP: I was in missionary in Brazil. I was in the Campinas mission, which is in the state of São Paulo, and about an hour and a half north-ish of the big city of SãoPaulo.
EH: Did you feel that connection to your family while you were there?
NP: I did, actually. I still have relatives in SÃ£o Paulo and Rio and in Curitiba where my grandfather was from. And without a doubt, I just felt, you know, at the time, my grandfather was quite sick. He was in Virginia at the time and he was really sick to the point where he wasn't all there. And so and he had been like that for a while. But I remember feeling close to him while I was down in Brazil and kind of being immersed, and in this beautiful culture where he was from. And, you know, I was raised in Virginia and perhaps it's like this for many missionaries that go to third world countries but it definitely was, for me, it took me a few months to kind of get over a little bit of the culture shock. Because there's a lot of poverty down there, there's a lot of hardships that people face, a lot of problems with drugs and crime. And so I kind of had a hard time adjusting to that, but after I did, I just completely fell in love with the Brazilian culture. And to this day, I mean, if I meet someone who speaks Portuguese, and I talk with them in Portuguese, or if I'm eating Brazilian food, or if I'm down there, I mean, there's something about Brazil that has just gotten into my soul. And it just brings me so much joy and happiness it is the Brazilian people are some of the most unique people on planet Earth. They have this quality and way about them that comes straight from heaven, in my opinion. They are some of the warmest, friendliest, kindest people. It's a beautiful thing, I am very great for that I had the privilege to be a missionary down there.
EH: Were you able to use your musical talent on your mission?
NP: I kind of sang all the time. Looking back now, I think I probably was a little bit crazy. Because I would get up on buses and sing to people at about six in the morning, when we we'd be driving to, going to these zone conferences. And I'd, you know, singing parks and also in people's homes. When we'd teach them the gospel, I would always include-
EH: What a beautiful way to bring the spirit.
NP: I mean, we'd teach people about how God is our father, I'd always sing, "I am a Child of God." And I would always find hymns that would relate to whatever it was that we were teaching, because, you know, just like you said, it was one of the best ways to invite the Spirit. And I mean, imagine going to a third world country and talking to someone about God in a foreign language, it's kind of intimidating. And so, you know, and obviously, what you say doesn't really do the difference, it's the spirit, it's the spirit teaching truth to someone else's heart. And so I found myself relying a lot on hymns and on singing to just invite that spirit of friendship, that spirit to help teach.
EH: Great. So after your mission, you attended BYU?
EH: And graduated with a degree in music,
NP: I did,
EH: When did you decide to pursue a career in music? Which is different getting a degree in music.
NP: And that's a good question because it wasn't until towards the very end at BYU that I realized that I was going to go for it. And because yeah, I just didn't know. But I've talked about this before so some people may have heard me talk about this, but I'll share it again because it's been such an impactful point in my life. And that is, so I did a study abroad program in Lucca, Italy and that that was the summer before my senior year at BYU. And I would wake up every morning, go to Italian class, go to acting class, take a break and eat lunch in front of this beautiful piazza, then go to opera rehearsal. And then towards the end of the program, we would perform what we had been rehearsing. And so there I was with these beautiful people, eating great food, learning a beautiful language, and just being immersed in this beautiful culture. And I kept on thinking, "Okay, how do I make this my job? This is pretty amazing." And it was after that, that I actually went straight to Brazil and did a tiny little tour with a few other BYU students. And that was also incredible. And then after that, I went back to BYU for my senior year. And I heard Elder Holland give CS fireside, just a few weeks after that semester had started. And he talked about faith and fears. And he talked about going after our dreams. And he said something that to this day, I think about all the time and he said, "God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as he always has, but he can't, if you don't pray, and he can't, if you don't dream." And so I probably had the worst seat in the house. The Marriott center, for those of you that know what it's like, it fits several thousand people, I was behind him in the bleachers, way up top. But even still, it was one of those moments where everything kind of just got quiet inside me and around me and I felt like I was learning something, I was learning a truth that I needed to learn. And I felt like the Lord was taking notice of me and of my dreams, and that he was breathing faith into my heart if you will. And giving me the courage to chase after these dreams that I've had to kind of follow the course, the path that Andre Bocelli has followed where that beautiful style of music where he mixes, you know, the classical with the pop in such a beautiful way. And I'm grateful that I decided to take that leap of faith and trust that the Lord would open up doors and it's been a beautiful experience. Dreams haven't come about overnight. I've also learned that there is always a wilderness between us and our Promised Land. But I've also learned that the Lord, without a doubt, provides manna for us in the wilderness. He provides those things that we need and He really does answer our prayers and fulfill our dreams.
EH: So hearing that, I was thinking, I imagine this wasn't easy to pursue it. What was it like? Did you find success right away? I mean, it sounds like you didn't necessarily, but you're not that old sitting in front of me and you're doing pretty well. But how difficult was it to break into that industry?
NP: So it's been-- And that's a good question because it actually started out unbelievably easy. I pretty much left BYU and somehow, after setting up a few auditions was able to get in front of Rick Wake, who was a producer that had worked with Celine Dion and Mariah Carey. And he was doing a project with Yani, where he had suggested to Yani to do a project with singers, where they would put lyrics to some of his pre-existing melodies and make an album out of it. And so, about 10 months after graduating from BYU, I found myself in an apartment in Manhattan, auditioning for a few people and one of those, one of those people was Rick Wake. And he suggested that I take one of Yani's songs, and write lyrics to it and go down and audition for him in a studio down in Florida, just south of West Palm Beach. And so I did that. And thankfully, the audition went well. And Yani got really excited about the project and that ended up becoming the project that is now known as "Yani Voices." And it was me and three other singers. And so there for a couple years, I was basically writing music with Yani, recording music with him in his studio and then we went on this massive tour, doing over 100 concerts in the States, Canada, and Mexico. And from that opportunity, I had the chance to do a couple PBS specials with him, and also be signed as a solo artist with Disney Music Group, and to work with them, to release my solo album and do my own PBS special. And you know, that experience was a couple years worth and I ended up going over to London to perform, to record in Air Studios, where George Martin producer of The Beatles, he'd taken this beautiful Cathedral, converted it into this studio and recorded with the Philharmonia Orchestra over there. So all these unbelievable, unbelievable experiences. And I thought, "Man, this is easy, I can't believe it."
And so I kind of started at the top, and then you know, a few different things happened. And, you know, Disney decided they were going to focus more on, you know, their teeny-bopper acts, you know, like the Miley Cyrus series and all that stuff, because that was their forte. And because, you know, what they wanted to do is kind of, they thought, you know, since we have all the children of the world, let's focus on getting all of their parents and focus on more of this adult contemporary style. And so they focused on that for a time, but then they realized, you know, let's just focus on what we know how to do with our eyes closed. And so after my contract ended with them, I basically became an independent artist. And, you know, during that time, it's been filled with highs and also lows. But through it all I've always thought back to Elder Holland's talk of how, you know, God is aware of our dreams, if we pray, if we have faith, if we dream, he's going to take care of us. And so, you know, it's interesting, am I talking too much, or am I okay?
EH: No, not at all.
NP: But just to kind of sum all this up, it's also been interesting, because, you know, it was also during that time where I became an independent artist, and things started to slow down a bit when Katie and I, my wife, Katie, and I decided to start a family of our own. And you know, since that time, we've had three children. And it's been amazing how, you know, the Lord, my dream, has always been to sing around the world, perform at the greatest symphonies, the greatest choirs, connect with people through music, and that is one of my dreams and it always will be one of my dreams. But it's interesting how, you know, I have also slowed down a bit, even purposefully, to realize how unbelievably important the family is. And as I've done that, it's been incredible for me, I have felt like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I felt like my heart has expanded time after time with each child that we've had, and it's been amazing to me as, even though my dreams with music will always be my dreams in that area of my life, my main dream has kind of become covenants and family. Because I've realized that when all is said and done, there is no way to replace the fulfillment and completion that I have found from my family and from those relationships. And so from, you know, from everything that we learn in church and in the gospel about the importance of family, I've come to better understand that on a personal level of how, regardless of how many standing ovations I might receive, or how many incredibly fulfilling musical opportunities I might receive, if I'm not able to share those with my family, then there's an emptiness to those dreams that I have. But it's in being able to share all these experiences, and being able to live life with my family, and experience mortality with them that has brought me more completion than I can possibly say. A completion that even surpasses the completion that I found in my musical career.
EH: You know, I've heard you speak and sing a few times before this. And I've just experienced it listening to you talk just now about your family. But every time I hear you speak about your family, I can hear the reverence you have for that calling. And I've always noted it in my mind and been impressed with the way you speak about being a husband and a father. So I can tell it means a lot to you and I felt it and I think everyone who's listening can feel what that means to you. But how maybe you could speak even a little bit more about how family life has changed you.
NP: So one of my all-time favorite songs is a song called Caruso. And the lyrics tell this beautiful story where we see this Caruso, old, he's about to pass away and he's embracing the woman that he loves along the Italian coast. And then as the song progresses, we see Caruso having all these flashbacks to different times in his life, where he would be far from the woman that he loved. And so there, all of a sudden, we see a younger Caruso rehearsing and performing. And we see him feeling so much pain in the music that he would sing because they were love songs and they made him think of her. And but one of the most beautiful parts of the song is when he kind of has this coming to himself moment where, you know, he's seeing the fame and the fortune, the popularity. And it's interesting the way the song describes, you know, through music or through theater, or opera, you can essentially become another person and you can forget what matters most. But what's so amazing about the way these lyrics tell the story is, you see a Caruso realizing that you know, the love that he shared for this person, it eclipsed the fame, the fortune and everything else. And so then all of a sudden, towards the end of the song, you see this older Caruso, you know, watching kind of the waves of the sea, the wake come and go, and you see him realizing that he, you know, had chosen what mattered most. And so family has completely changed me by how it's really changed my heart. And I realized that the fulfillment and the completion that I seek in order to be as happy as I possibly can be, my family has become that. And I always, you know, as I think about the gospel, about covenants, and about family, I see them as one in the same. I'm not able to separate them because, you know, if we're trying to follow Jesus Christ, I believe that it's impossible to do that without basically honoring and respecting and loving those that are part of our own family.
EH: Thank you for sharing that. So as you're talking, I'm thinking about family life, and how that's a form of consecration, a form of self-sacrifice, a way to become one.
EH: It seems to me what you've done with your voice, you've seen it and I think we all can see this as another form of consecration. Sometimes I think we look at the word talent a little too narrowly. And it's easy for me to look at you and be like, "Oh, yeah, that's talent. That's a talent," right? But like, I'm really good at ordering Chinese food. Does the world need that?
EH: I don't know.
NP: I could sue some Chinese food right now.
EH: Ya know, you have that I have this, right? It's all the same. But joking aside, what does it look like to consecrate our time and talents, what does that look like in real life do you think? Especially for everyone, because you've managed to carve out a space for what that looks like for you, I'm just wondering if you think if you've had any thoughts around that for anyone.
NP: If I were to sum it up, in my opinion, I believe that consecrating our lives to the Lord means focusing on helping other people. Because, you know, in the end, as that scripture says, you know, God's work and His glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of men and women. Or in other words, is to help them be as happy as they can possibly be. And so whatever our talents might be, I think that it simply comes down to pretty much what President Nelson has invited us to do recently, as far as ministering is concerned, it's to truly be aware of other people and help other people according to their needs. So whether you help them through music, or through taking them a meal, or through just being with them, however, it is that you minister to them or help them. I think that to truly consecrate ourselves and our lives to the Lord comes down to helping people, and in particular, I believe it comes down to helping people believe in themselves. Because I think that one of the natural consequences of living in this life is we get beat up so many times through different experiences that I think it's very easy, or I think it's like our default state to feel awful about ourselves. And so anytime anyone can kind of breathe life back into our hearts and help us believe in ourselves, instead of doubt in ourselves, I believe that that's exactly what the Savior would do if he were here. I believe that he would, I don't, I mean, I'm positive that he would not tear us down and pick us apart. I believe that he would help us believe in ourselves, and in our goodness. And, and so I think that anytime we can help people believe in themselves so that they stop beating up on themselves or doubting themselves or their capabilities, I think that we're not only doing them a service but doing God a service as well.
EH: So we ask everyone the same question at the end of the podcast. The question is, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
NP: Covenants and family. And I know I talked about that earlier but if I were to sum up the gospel of Jesus Christ and what it means to me, covenant and family. I believe that that is the best way that we can build our lives upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Lord, as the scripture says, is through covenants and family. I believe they're one in the same, if we're keeping our covenants, we're going to be true to our family, if we're true to our family, then it implies that we're being true to our covenants. And so I believe that's how we best walk upon the straight and narrow and walk along this path that leads us to the greatest happiness that is possible.
EH: Covenants and family. I love that. Thank you. Thank you so much.
NP: No, my pleasure. Thank you for having me. It's such a pleasure to talk about these things with you.
EH: Great, thank you. Thank you so much, Nathan Pacheco, for joining us. My Prayer, which is Nathan's latest album is available now in Desert Book stores, and on iTunes. To listen to more episodes of All In, visit LDSliving.com/allin. And don't forget to subscribe and please leave us a review especially if you enjoyed this episode.