Seventh of a series
When he was young, Colter Bonaroti thought he was going to play professional soccer.
Then he took a sports medicine class in high school and decided he would become a physical therapist, just like his dad.
But when he joined a jazz band and began serving at church, he heard God’s call to focus on music.
God knew best. No coincidence.
But there was one more piece to the puzzle that would lead him to the Worship Arts program at Grand Canyon University. It came after he auditioned for the music performance program.
“The audition went really well, but I felt the Lord calling me to something more – that there was something else at GCU that I would be missing if I only thought about it as a school for music performance,” he said.
“They both said, ‘The Lord’s going to lead you to success wherever you are,’” Bonaroti recalled.
Has He ever.
Bonaroti is now one of the Worship Arts stars and collaborated on two songs in Canyon Worship 2022, scheduled to be released in September.
But there’s more to it than that.
He also has perfect pitch, the rare ability to identify or re-create musical notes without the benefit of hearing other notes. And yet he’s not the type to brag about it.
“A lot of people, if they had his talents, would not be as humble as he is,” Downs said. “He plays so many instruments masterfully. You could play a complicated jazz voicing keyboard, and he could tell you the chord and the voicings you’re using.”
GCU Recording Studio Manager Eric Johnson decided to have a little fun with Bonaroti one day and detuned an app, skewing the tone of the musical notes.
“He had a deer-in-the-headlights look,” Johnson said, smiling. “Now everybody tries to stump Colter.”
But, more importantly, everybody in the Recording Studio tries to collaborate with Colter. Both of his songs on the album – “Sometimes” and “The Real Thing” – are four-person efforts. Madison Russell and Victoria Gutierrez worked with him on both songs, and Edwin Lopez sings “Sometimes” and Nicole Jasperse performs on “The Real Thing.”
That’s a source of joy for Bonaroti.
“I’ve written quite a few songs on my own, but I like writing songs with a bunch of other people, too,” he said. “That helps me process my ideas a lot. Even if I’m writing a song that’s based off my own idea, it helps a lot to have somebody else to ask me questions and have me bounce ideas off them and spur me on a little bit.”
“The Real Thing” is the perfect example. The group was working on the song in class and decided to try out a new spot, the enclosed stairwell next to the Recording Studio. They soon came to value the vastly different acoustics and echoes – and one other thing.
“It felt really isolated, like we were the only ones there pouring into this idea that we were coming up with on the spot,” he said. “It ended up being a lot more joyful and spontaneous and a lot more lighthearted than a lot of songwriting projects – not that the other ones are intense.
“Nicole started playing the guitar, and I said, ‘I thought I knew what we were after.’ We all were throwing different things out while Nicole and Madison kept playing their guitars. We were all throwing out different ideas that slowly wove together after a few more times of meeting in that stairwell.”
It’s indicative of how many of the album’s songs come together.
“We all could have come up with a different song,” Bonaroti went on, “but there’s something beautiful about how we let our different stories weave together. We often find ourselves talking about what we feel led to write about, how the Lord has answered our prayers through those conversations.”
They also feel led to write music in the Recording Studio, their home away from wherever their home is. They spend days and nights there – studying, eating, talking, composing, laughing … and collaborating.
“The blessing of having classrooms right outside the Recording Studio for Worship Arts is that it reminds us to go inside,” he said. “Even though this is the place we want to be all the time, with our classes we might be thinking, ‘I’ve got homework, I’ve got class.’
“Since it’s right here, a lot of times we find ourselves wandering into the songwriting lounge and seeing each other. Sometimes we’ll come up with a musical idea. I’ve found that once those ideas come up more spontaneously, if you have something that sparks or something that you’re interested in writing about after a great conversation with friends in there, then it becomes more of a thing where we planned to be in there.”
Before Bonaroti came to GCU, the Gilbert, Arizona, native thought about going to Nashville to pursue a career in music. Now he’s thankful he didn’t.
“I think I would have been sucked into the mindset of ‘I’ve got to be the best’ – competing rather than lifting up other musicians and other people in general,” he said. “Before coming to GCU, I thought that making great music and great relationships through that had to revolve around a certain place. If I was going to be a great musician and grow, I thought I was going to have to go far from home.
“But if I’ve learned anything from coming to GCU, it’s that wherever you are, wherever the Lord blesses you to go, I’ve learned the most from just allowing Him to grow roots wherever I am inside me and to bloom wherever I’m planted by just stopping and taking a look around.”
And collaborating with others with humility and grace.
“As much as his musicianship draws other students to him,” Downs said, “I think it’s his humility.”
Funny how God knew best on that score, too.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
Canyon Worship 2022 is scheduled to be released Sept. 9 on Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music. It will be available in the iTunes Store.