A key figure in the history of contemporary Latin American music, Juan Orrego-Salas has contributed as a musician to diverse areas of music, especially as a composer and musicologist.
In 1961 distinguished Chilean composer and musicologist Juan Orrego-Salas founded the Latin American Music Center at Indiana University with funds from the Rockefeller Foundation. The grant was extended for the next five years while Indiana University gradually assumed the Center's financial support. From its inception, the LAMC's primary objective has been to promote the research and performance of Latin American art and traditional musics (the latter in collaboration with Indiana University's Archives of Traditional Music). Eventually, the LAMC added Latin American popular music to its mission, as indicated by the list of full scores and parts found in the second edition of the catalog Latin American Music Avaliable at Indiana University (1st ed., 1964; 2nd ed., undated). This catalog became the backbone of the Center and a new edition was published in 1971 (Juan A. Orrego-Salas, ed., Music from Latin America Available at Indiana University: Scores, Tapes, and Records). Maestro Orrego-Salas's vision was that the LAMC would make available to scholars and performers the most complete library of art music from the region in existence (Juan A. Orrego-Salas, "The Latin-American Music Center," Music Educators Journal 49, no. 5 (April-May 1963): 106). Orrego-Salas instituted graduate courses, lectures and seminars in Latin American music at Indiana University, some of which are still offered. In partnership with the Archives of Traditional Music, the LAMC sponsored the First Inter-American Seminar of Composers and the Second Inter-American Conference on Ethnomusicology at Indiana University at the end of April 1965. The papers presented were eventually published in George List and Juan Orrego-Salas, eds., Music in the Americas (The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton & Co., Indiana University Research Center in Anthropology, Folklore, and Linguistics, 1967). Orrego-Salas's directorship continued for more than a quarter century, during which he established the LAMC as one of the most important centers for Latin American music in the world. Towards the end of Orrego-Salas's tenure, José Mariano Morales-Matos, envisioned and created the Latin American Popular Music Ensemble in the fall of 1985 as a student project.
Following Orrego-Salas's retirement in 1987, Venezuelan composer Ricardo Lorenz became Acting Director until 1992. During this transitional period, Ricardo Lorenz was instrumental in continuing the legacy of the Latin American Popular Music Ensemble as well as creating a database recording the Center's catalog of scores and recordings. A listing of the contents of the database was published in 1995 by Indiana University Press (Scores and Recordings at Indiana University Latin American Music Center).
Venezuelan-American conductor Carmen Téllez assumed the LAMC's directorship at the momentous year of 1992, when many initiatives reevaluating Columbus's contribution to the Americas were under way. She initiated a new wave of interdisciplinary and multi-media projects and performances that continue to the present. The LAMC was among the first units of the Jacobs School of Music to establish its own website as well as an electronic newsletter (LAMúsiCa, 1993-2007) and an e-mail discussion list (LAMC-L, 1995-Present). She continued Orrego-Salas's Inter-American initiatives by organizing Words and Music: An Inter-American Composition Workshop (Summer 1994) and Crossroads of Tradition: The Second Inter-American Composition Workshop (Summer 1996). In 1994 the LAMC received the first installment of Colombian conductor and music administrator Guillermo Espinosa's archives, which is one of the major collections in the world for the study of Inter-American music relations. In partnership with the Office of Education from the Embassy of Spain, in 1998 the LAMC offered the first Annual Competition in the Performance of Music from Spain and Latin America for students at Indiana University, whose winners record a documentary CD that is distributed worldwide and which is already in its twelfth edition.
Several individuals and institutions provide great support in order for the center to achieve its vision of disseminating Latin American music globally. In addition to funds from Indiana University for staff and projects, Mrs. Olimpia Barbera established a scholarship to support outstanding music students from Latin America as well as a fund for recording projects. The center also receives grants and works closely with the New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities at Indiana University, the United States-Mexico Fund for Culture, and the Embassies of Spain, among other institutions.
Among its several projects, the LAMC continues to expand its valuable library and promote exchanges between musicians and scholars from the United States and Latin America. We work in collaboration with some of the most important institutions, scholars, and musicians in Latin American to commission, perform and record exemplary music from the region.