Hispanic Heritage Month

In the United States, National Hispanic Heritage Month is recognized from September 15th to October 15th. It is a time allotted to recognize the influence of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the history of the country.

Although Hispanic and Latino are often used interchangeably, they mean two different things. The term Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish, or are descended from communities who speak Spanish, while Latino refers to people who are from or descended from people from Latin American regions. This article includes both Hispanic and Latino composers.



María Luisa Sepúlveda courtesy of Memoria Chilena Courtesy of Memoria Chilena

María Luisa Sepúlveda (1892-1958)

Listen: “Preludio” on the classical harp

María Luisa Sepúlveda Maira was born in Chillán on August 14, 1892. She was one of the first women to graduate in composition in Chile. She graduated from her piano studies at the Conservatory of Music in Santiago in 1905 and graduated as a composer in 1918. During her tenure at the Conservatory, she formed an orchestra composed solely of women, which she conducted in a concert herself. The members were part of the National Conservatory and the initiative was a success. Parallel to the piano, she studied lyrical singing, receiving a diploma in 1919. The folkloric nature of her compositional work has led some people to label her as a nationalist, but her work is also quite eclectic and takes some elements from 19th century salon music.

"Preludio" on the classical harp


Lucía Álvarez Vázquez courtesy of Sphinx Music Catalogue Courtesy of Sphinx Music Catalog

Lucía Álvarez Vázquez (1948 - )

Listen: Hey Familia!!!

Lucia Álvarez was born in Mexico City, Mexico. Álvarez is a pianist and renown cello composer throughout Latin American. She studied at the Escuela Nacional de Música of the UNAM where she received her Bachelors degree in piano and composition, and her music reflects aspects of Neo-romantic traditions. Composing more than 100 concert works for chamber, solo and symphonic orchestra, her music has earned her a six time winner of the Ariel of the Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences, an international award at the Festival International du Film and des Réalisateurs de Écoles de Cinéma, Nimes, France (1991) and the Prix meilleure Musique Originale dans le film of the Festival des Trois Continents, Nantes, France (1993). She is currently the Professor of Composition at the Escuela Nacional de Música in Mexico. She has worked as a filmmaker, creating a two set DVD that presents the possibilities of composing for the cello. She has also worked with leading  directors Héctor Azar and Juan Ibáñez, and filmmakers Arturo Ripstein, Jorge Fons and Ignacio Ortiz.

Hey Familia!!!

Manuel Ponce Courtesy of peermusicclassical.com

Manuel Ponce (1882-1948)

Listen: “Concierto del Sur”
Composed in 1941, “Concierto del Sur” is a guitar concerto dedicated to Ponce’s long-time friend and guitar virtuoso Andrés Segovia.

Manuel Ponce was a pianist and composer whose earlier style was inspired by Moszkowski and Chaminade, and included lots of light compositions for piano and many sentimental songs. After studying the works of Dukas later in his life, he developed a style that combined both French Impressionism and neo-Classical contrapuntal techniques. This later practice is reflected in his guitar music and more of his serious and larger works.

“Concierto del Sur”

Gabriela Ortiz courtesy of her website Courtesy of gabrielaortiz.com

Gabriela Ortiz (1964 - )

Listen: “Atlas Pumas”

Latin Grammy nominated Gabriela Ortiz is one of the foremost composers in Mexico today, and one of the most vibrant musicians emerging in the international scene. Born in Mexico City, her parents were musicians in the famous folk music ensemble Los Folkloristas founded in 1966 to preserve and record the traditional music of Mexico and Latin America. She trained with the eminent composer Mario Lavista at the National Conservatory of Music and Federico Ibarra at the National University of Mexico. In 1990 she was awarded the British Council Fellowship to study in London with Robert Saxton at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In 1992 she received the University of Mexico Scholarship to complete Ph.D. studies in electroacoustic music composition with Simon Emmerson at The City University in London. Her compositions are credited for being both entertaining and immediate as well as profound and sophisticated; she achieves a balance between highly organized structure and improvisatory spontaneity. She currently teaches composition at the Mexican University of Mexico City and as a visiting faculty at Indiana University. Her music is currently published by Schott, Boosey and Hawkes, Arla Music and Ediciones Mexicanas de Música, Saxiana Presto and Tre Fontane.

"Atlas Pumas"

Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940)

Listen: “Sensemayá” (1937)
“Sensemayá” is an orchestral composition written in 1937 based on a poem of the same title by Cuban poet Nicolàs Guillén.

In 1924 and 25, Silvestre Revueltas and Carlos Chàvez organized the first concerts of contemporary music in Mexico. Until then, that kind of music was unknown to the capital. He held the position of assistant conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica de México from 1929-1936. His works as a composer were original and technically inclined and contributed significantly to the form of the national Mexican symphonic poem.

Silvestre Revueltas Courtesy of amiraarmenta.com

“Sensemayá” (1937)

Arturo Marquez Courtesy of redmayor.wordpress.com

Arturo Màrquez (1950- )

Listen: “Danzón No. 2; Conga del Fuego”
This full orchestral composition was commissioned by the National Autonomous University of Mexico and premiered in 1994. It was inspired by a visit to a ballroom in Veracruz; it reflects the dance style known as danzón, a very important part of the folklore of the Mexican state of Veracruz.

Màrquez began to study various instruments and methods of composition while in junior high in the early 1960s. At 17, he was named director of Municipal Band Director in Navojoa. He studied further in Mexico, France, and the U.S., finally receiving an MFA degree from the California Institute of the Arts.

“Danzón No. 2; Conga del Fuego”

José Pablo Moncayo (1912-1958)

Listen: “Huapango”
Composed in 1941, “Huapango” is a bright, short symphonic piece composed for orchestra.

In 1931, Moncayo joined the Mexican Symphony Orchestra as a percussionist, and became the conductor from 1949 to 1954. He formed the notorious Group of Four in 1934 with Blas Galindo Dimas, Daniel Ayala Pérez and Salvador Contreras. The group’s mission was to withhold Mexican nationalist spirit within new, original Mexican music. Moncayo uses inspiration from indigenous music and Mexican tradition in many of his compositions. His work helped define Mexican modernism, and his death in 1958 is considered by many to mark the end of the nationalist school of Mexican music.

Jose Pablo Moncayo Courtesy of redmayor.wordpress.com



Sara Curruchich courtesy of Facebook Courtesy of Facebook

Sara Curruchich (1993 - )

Listen: “Somos”

Sara Curruchich is a 27 year old maya Kaqchikel composer and singer. She uses her music to defend the rights of indigenous Guatemalans, singing in her native Kaqchikel and Spanish. She gained national attention after uploading her song Ch’uti’ xtän (Niña) to social media, and her popularity has only risen from there as she continues to release music that is inspiring, powerful, and speaks directly of the hardships that indigenous people endure.


El Salvador

María Mendoza de Baratta courtesy of Facebook Courtesy of Facebook

María Mendoza de Baratta (1890 – 1978)

Listen: “Ofrenda de la Elegida y el Nahualismo”

Born in San Salvador, Baratta was the daughter of José Ángel Mendoza and María García de Mendoza, the latter a well-regarded pianist. Her mother was her first teacher, and she took lessons in solfege with Agustín Solórzano. She then began lessons at the National Conservatory with Maria Zimmerman and Antonio Gianoli. Between 1926 and 1938 Baratta engaged in an active performing career; she also represented the country at various folkloric congresses. During her career she was a member of the Athenaeum of El Salvador, the Salvadoran Academy of History, and the Union of American Women. In 1962 she was elected a Woman of the Americas. Her published works include: the ballet El Teocalli, Canto al Sol, Ofrenda de la Elegida, Los Tecomatillos, Nahualismo, Procesión Hierática, Danza del Incienso, and El Cancionero de la jarra verde.

"Ofrenda de la Elegida y el Nahualismo"


Alberto Ginastera Courtesy of redmayor.wordpress.com

Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)

Listen: “Estancia” (“The Ranch”)
“Estancia” is an orchestral suite and one-act ballet. The music references gaucho literature, rural folk dances, and urban concert music. It was commissioned in 1941 and premiered in 1943 in its orchestral form and in 1952 in its ballet form. The story of the piece tells of a city boy who wins the heart of a rancher’s daughter. The concert suite is made up of four dances: “Los trabajadores agrícolas” (“The Land Workers”), “Danza del trigo” (“Wheat Dance”), “Los peones de hacienda” (“The Cattlemen”), and “Danza final (Malambo).” The last movement, inspired by the Argentinian malambo dance, is one of Ginastera’s most popular pieces.

Ginastera is known for his use of both local and national musical idioms in his compositions. He was a musically talented child who studied in Buenos Aires at the Conservatorio Williams and the National Conservatory and received a Guggenheim award for his artistry. Although he is considered a traditionalist, he commonly mixed traditional musical ideals with modern techniques, including microtones, serial procedures, and aleatory.

“Estancia” (“The Ranch”)

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)

Listen: “Libertango”
The word “Libertango” is a portmanteau blending the words “Libertad” (“Liberty”) and “Tango.” Written in 1974, this piece is a prime example of Piazzolla’s switch from the classic tango to the nuevo tango.

Piazzolla popularized the tango and its principal instrument, the bandoneón, which he began playing at age 8. Through his composition and performance, he created a new type of tango, nuevo tango, that blended elements of jazz and classical music. Many of his compositions were written for his quintet Quinteto Nuevo Tango, formed in 1960. His music was also featured in many 1970s and 80s commercials, television programs, film scores.

Astor Piazzolla Courtesy of redmayor.wordpress.com


Costa Rica

Lola Castegnaro courtesy of the historical musical archives of University of Costa Rica Courtesy of the historical musical archives of University of Costa Rica

Lola Castegnaro (1900 – 1979)

Listen: “Vals lento”

Lola Castegnaro was a Costa Rican conductor, composer and music educator. She was born in San José, Costa Rica, and studied music with her father, Alvise Castegnaro, who was a composer. She continued her studies at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan and the Academia Filarmonica in Bologna. After completing her studies, she returned to Costa Rica in 1941 where she arranged for radio broadcasts of her work and conducted opera. She later moved to Mexico and took a teaching position at the Academia de Canto de Fanny Anitùa.

"Vals lento"


Courtesy of redmayor.wordpress.com

Augustín Barrios (1885-1944)

Listen: “La Catedral”
Written in 1921, “La Catedral was performed very often by Barrios throughout his lifetime. Small sections of the piece were changed over time as Barrios performed, and even to this day the work has many different interpretations and arrangements that can be performed.

Barrios is considered one of the most prolific Latin American guitarists, although his music was hardly known for over three decades after his death. He never studied music formally, and spent his life traveling, playing guitar, and composing.

“La Catedral”


Antonio Lauro Courtesy of Desde La Plaza

Antonio Lauro (1917-1986)

Listen: “Natalia”
“Natalia” is one of three valses venezolanos (Venezuelen waltzes) that Lauro composed for guitar between 1938 and 1940.

Lauro grew up studying piano and composition at the Academia de Música y Declamación. In 1932, he witnessed a concert by guitarist Augustín Barrios that inspired him to focus primarily on guitar in his music. He was a Venezuelan nationalist who toured nearby countries with other musicians to introduce more people to Venezuelan music. He composed a variety of works for orchestra, piano, and voice, but is most known for his guitar work. He was appointed professor of guitar at multiple distinguished schools including Juan José Landaeta Conservatory, was named president of the Venezueland Symphony Orchestra, and presented with the Premio nacional de música, Venezuela’s highest artistic award.


Read other posts by