Maestro dies, aged 100

Maestro dies, aged 100


norman lebrecht

November 25, 2019

The Chilean composer Juan Orrego-Salas, founder of the Center for Latin American Music at Indiana University, died on Sunday at Bloomington, Indiana.

A student of Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, he lived in the US from the 1950s and enjoyed extensive performances there.

More here.

His death is overshadowed by his country’s worst crisis since the military coup of 1973.

Official announcement:

Juan Orrego-Salas (1919-2019)
Juan Orrego-Salas, world-renowned classical music composer, professor emeritus of composition and Latin American music scholar, died on November 24, 2019, in the city of Bloomington, Indiana, where he emigrated from his native Chile in the early 1960s. He was 100
years old.

As Founding Director of the Indiana University Latin American Music Center and Jacobs School of Music’s faculty, he promoted a deep understanding of Latin American music and taught music composition to hundreds of aspiring composers from around the world, many of whom currently lead meaningful careers as composers and teachers. Throughout his prolific life, Juan Orrego-Salas composed over 125 works for a myriad of templates. His catalogue includes six symphonies, two operas, several oratorios, a mass, many choral pieces, concertos for piano, violin and cello, chamber works and compositions for unaccompanied instruments, including one for bandoneón, the concertina-like instrument synonymous with tango music. His extensive creative output is characterized by an adherence to impeccable formal designs, vocal-like lyricism, and inventive musical procedures that stem freely from different time periods.

Among many honors he received, Juan Orrego-Salas was awarded the Premio Nacional in 1992, the highest recognition conferred by the Chilean Government to artists, writers, scientists, and historians, and the Premio Interamericano de Cultura Gabriela Mistral granted to him in 1988 by the Organization of American States in Washington D.C. Other distinctions included fellowships from the Rockefeller and Guggenheim foundations as well as commissions from the Koussevitzky, Coolidge, Wechsler, and Stieren foundations.

Born on January 18, 1919 in Santiago into a politically-engaged and arts-loving family, he studied composition with Pedro Humberto Allende and Domingo Santa Cruz in Chile and later on with Randall Thompson and Aaron Copland in the United States. When he was appointed faculty at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 1961, Juan Orrego-Salas was already a major influence in his native country. He was editor of a major music journal, director of a choir and founder and first director of the Music Department of the Universidad Católica de
Chile, the same institution that granted him a Diploma in Architecture in 1943 and an Honorary Doctorate in 1971. He retired from teaching in 1987 —after 26 years of service to Indiana University— and continued creating intensely until 2007.

Juan Orrego-Salas is survived by his wife of 76 years, Carmen Orrego-Salas; daughter Francisca; sons Juan Felipe, Juan Miguel and Juan Matías; grandchildren Serena, Magdalena, Daniel, Sebastian, Lucas, Pascal, and Andreas; seven great grandchildren; son-in law Julio Alamos; and daughters-in-law Patricia del Carmen Vazquez, Beverly Colin, Jean Schelm, Lorna Mittelman and Mara Baygulova. He is predeceased by son Juan Cristian and grandson Gabriel.
-Ricardo Lorenz



  • Thank you for posting this announcement. However,I wish to clarify he died in Bloomington, Indiana, where he led the Latin American Music Center for 27 years. He was indeed a great and influential artist. More news will surely come from The Latin American Music Center (

  • PeterSD says:

    South America also lost Peruvian composer Enrique Iturriaga over the weekend.

  • Daphnis says:

    What an ugly and mean-spirited thing to post!

  • Kyril Magg says:

    In 1972, my family was pleased and honored that Juan wrote his lovely Serenata for Flute and Cello, opus 70, for us. It was dedicated to my mother, pianist Natasha Magg; my father, cellist Fritz Magg, and I premiered and recorded this work and performed it often.

    Juan was the consummate gentleman, an elegant and kind representative of a culture and a humanity that is in rare evidence these days. He was a valued and much appreciated friend of ours. My heartfelt affection is extended to his beautiful wife and the rest of his family.

  • Glenn Winters says:

    It’s “Indiana University”, not “University of Indiana”, please. (I’m an alum)