It is with great sadness that the Latin American Music Center announces the passing of its founder, the noted Chilean composer and scholar Juan Orrego-Salas. His passion, dedication and kindness will continue to serve as a source of inspiration for those of us who have the privilege to continue his work. Maestro Orrego-Salas’ legacy will not be forgotten.

Below we would like to share an obituary notice written by Venezuelan composer Ricardo Lorenz, a former student Maestro Orrego-Salas and a close friend of the Orrego family.

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 Magdalena, Serena, 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 Mittleman and Mara Baygulova.  He is predeceased by son Juan Cristian and grandson Gabriel.

-Ricardo Lorenz


Juan Orrego-Salas - Founder and Director of the LAMC (1961-1987) 

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