Carlos Chávez, a renowned Mexican composer, conductor, and music theorist was born in a suburb of Mexico City in 1899. Even though he trained as a pianist, he had a strong drive to write music. Naturally curious, he investigated Mexico's indigenous cultures and gained an appreciation for native folk instruments, and dance forms. His compositions feature driving percussion and unique combinations of Mexican, Indian, and Spanish elements. By using indigenous elements in his work, his compositions revitalized Mexican music in the 20th century.
Chavez began writing music shortly after he began taking piano lessons from his brother when he was nine. Even though he graduated from Mexico's National Conservatory of Music earning a diploma in composition, and he studied for a short time with one of Mexico's leading composers, Manuel Ponce, he was primarily self-taught.
In 1922 Carlos married pianist Otilia Ortiz. Together they toured Europe promoting her career and his music. In Paris, they met composer Paul Dukas. He encouraged Chávez to focus his attention on the rich musical heritage of Mexico just as Manuel de Falla had done with music in Spain.
Chavez was a prolific writer and composer. He wrote five ballets, several symphonies, concertos, and many choral pieces. He was also an accomplished author. His book Toward a New Music: Music and Electricity is widely recognized for its major contribution to musical theory.
In 1928 Chávez became director his country's first permanent symphony, the Mexican Symphonic Orchestra. He was pivotal in taking the orchestra on tour throughout rural parts of Mexico. Later he served as director of the National Conservatory. During his tenure there, he led several projects to collect and preserve samples of indigenous music.During his long career Chavez conducted almost every major orchestra in the United States, Europe, and Latin America. He was also awarded honorary memberships in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences along with the American institute of Arts and Letters. He died quietly in a suburb of Mexico City near where he was born in 1978