“Life is a symphony,” says worship leader and recording artist Ricardo Sanchez. “Everyone has a story to tell and a part to play. There’s reason and purpose in it all.”
A worship pastor at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas—one of the largest, most influential churches in the country—Ricardo has seen and heard lots of stories. He’s also traveled the country mentoring other worship leaders, cementing his belief that everyone has a part to play in this grand symphony called life. And with his newest album, aptly called Grand Symphony, Ricardo has seen God orchestrating the highs and lows of his own life into a masterpiece far beyond the plans or expectations of man. Without fail and in His perfect timing, God has revealed purpose in the pain, reason in the inexplicable and unfettered mercy and love in the cacophony of life.
Born the youngest of six to Vicente and Francesca Sanchez, music was a part of Ricardo’s life from the beginning. “My father wrote and played guitar. He wanted to be Julio Iglesias,” he says with a laugh. “I grew up in Arizona singing with my brothers and sisters and we actually had some international success.”
But his musical direction shifted drastically when he came to know Christ as his personal Savior. “When I gave my life to Jesus, in high school, the whole thing changed,” Ricardo remembers. “I stopped the family musical thing and began writing these prayers that eventually became songs.”
Close friend Israel Houghton also provided some professional and spiritual guidance that proved pivotal in Ricardo’s blossoming career. “I’ve known Israel for 24 years,” Ricardo says of the now world-renowned worship leader and recording artist. “My wife describes him so well as the guy who sees further than most. He saw in me then what I didn’t see in myself.”
Others saw it too. Before long, Ricardo was keeping company with Israel and New Breed, Darlene Zschech, Mac Powell, Jaci Velasquez and Salvador, to name a few. His songs were reaching the top of the Billboard charts and he was leading worship in some of the biggest churches in the world.
Ricardo’s multi-cultural style and genre-defying approach to praise & worship music made him a sought-after counselor to worship leaders around the globe. He created the Windows-2-Worship online seminar to offer coaching and consultation to fellow leaders, an endeavor that remains a passion. “The worship leader gets almost as much face time as the senior pastor. There’s so much responsibility beyond the music,” he says. “It’s about pastoring people.”
By any standard, Ricardo’s multi-faceted ministry was a success. “Music was going really well,” he says. “We were nominated for several Dove Awards and a GRAMMY®. But just a few years ago, I realized that the music was steering me. I wasn’t steering it. I would come home, the boys would be a half-inch taller and I was expecting room service. There was no great tragedy, but you can drown in shallow water.”
Near-tragedy, however, did strike the Sanchez household more than two years ago, an incident which jolted Ricardo into a self-imposed reality check. “Our son, Josiah, dove into a swimming pool and broke his neck,” Ricardo shares. “I had just landed in Jacksonville when I got the call. I grabbed my bag and guitar and went back to the ticket counter to head home. I got around the corner and just collapsed. My son had a small chance to live. I couldn’t believe it.”
Miraculously, Josiah was healed, but the gravity of the circumstance wasn’t lost on Ricardo. The accident was a turning point in more ways than one. While his faith was still strong, inevitably the “why” began to creep in.
“When you hear Scripture like Romans 8:28 for so long, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…,’ you can become callous to it. After Josiah’s accident, I fell on my knees and asked why. It’s easy to get rooted in the why,” he says. “The only way we got out of the why was our worship, our pursuit of Christ and His presence.”
The incident was life-changing in ways far beyond what Ricardo and his family could have imagined. Out of this difficult season came the song “It’s Not Over,” which soared to #1 on the charts and is undeniably his career-defining single. The success of the song also precipitated another decision for Ricardo and his family.
“Around this time God called us to be worship leaders again. We had been in a position of total control of our schedule and building relationships all over the world, but this was such a sign to me of necessary change in our lives. I had to start using my family as my barometer and start living by a calendar instead of a checkbook. I had been winning the world and losing my family. I wanted to win this,” he says.
With the decision made, he took up residence as a worship pastor at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, under the leadership of Pastor John Hagee. As Ricardo committed to leading on Sunday nights, the paradigm shift in his life was quickly affirmed. The church also invited him to join a diverse roster of artists on their Difference Media label, making clear to Ricardo that his own solo career could continue as well.
“We’ve done nothing but experience transition, growth and change. It’s like we brought our loaves and fishes without specific expectations,” he says. “It’s been a symphony of emotion and blossoming relationships.”
This newest season in life has offered much to fuel Ricardo’s creative passions, and the result is on full display in Grand Symphony. His first full-length studio recording, the album is a showcase of international influences—an infectious, engaging collection of world beats and memorable melodies. Produced by Ricardo, along with Israel and Mark Townsend, the worship project is also his most pop-oriented album yet.
“I’ve been writing a lot with other worship leaders including Israel,” he says. “Israel knows my heart. I’m able to be vulnerable with him and I saw the hardest of the seeds that had been planted in the last few years becoming songs.”
“I woke up one morning with this overwhelming thought of how God has been so good to me, and I began singing, ‘Halle Halle,’” he continues. “I was with Israel at the time, and he heard that chorus, came downstairs and we wrote the song. It’s got a Texas vibe but could be interpreted as Caribbean, Jamaican, or South African.”
Another song was, in a sense, the sequel to “It’s Not Over,” inspired by Josiah’s ordeal. “Take Over” reflects a new attitude of surrender and gratitude for Ricardo and his family. “We went through so much during that experience,” he recalls. “We were so exhausted and at the end or our rope. It was when we finally just let go that we realized He’s got this. It’s a freeing place to be.”
“When people listen to this project, I want them to know they have a place in the Body of Christ. They don’t have to be a Bible scholar or theologian or someone on FOX or CNN to be of value or importance,” says Ricardo. “My wife, Jennette, is so much prettier and smarter than me, but everyone looks to me. The truth is I am who I am because of her. She lives the example. I’d better live up to that. There are a ton of Jennettes out there. They form who their families are. They’re instrumental in the symphony.”
From a young boy with dreams of stardom to the top of the charts, the bottom of despair and back again, Ricardo is seeing God’s faithfulness in spades. With a new humility and appreciation, he’s living to the rhythm of the Master Conductor who daily takes our fishes and loaves, our best and our worst, and composes the grandest symphony of all.