As the youngest of a large and musical family, I have been listening to classical music since before I was born. The story my mom recounts for me is that if my dad didn’t play certain classical music records when I requested, by singing and babbling from the cradle, I would cry. My family also listened to and played a lot of Colombian folk music—my brothers, sister, and my dad frequently had Colombian music jams at home. Popular songs and jazz were also part of the repertoire. My dad played the saxophone and my siblings played other instruments, but mainly the piano, an old Rachals on which I began to learn to play at age 5.
Later, at age 9 or 10, I remember my sister played me a record with music by the Colombian composer Blas Emilio Atehortúa (b. 1943). Listening to a type of Colombian music that was not the traditional pasillos and bambucos I was so used to was a revelation to me—I understood for the first time that classical music could also be composed by Colombians. It was after this experience that I first realized I wanted to compose music. Even though performing music was rewarding, I also wanted to write it—to invent it. I think that when you compose music you have the power to imagine an entire world, or imagine a new and unknown living organism, with all its details and intricacies, and other people can experience it when they listen to it.
My music has always been influenced by all these events. As I have sought my voice, I have continuously synthesized classical music, Colombian music, jazz, and my favorite composers.
Besides composing regularly since about 1990, I also have taught music theory and composition in Colombia and the United States. I had the honor to belong to the first generation of composers graduating from Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, where I studied composition with Guillermo Gaviria and piano with Radostina Petkova. Later, I continued my graduate studies in the United States: my masters degree at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon and Joel Hoffman; and my doctoral degree at Cornell University with Steven Stucky and Roberto Sierra. Currently, I lead the composition and theory division at the UNLV School of Music.
Recording of Red Rock for Orchestra: UNLV Orchestra, Diego Vega, conductor