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The following chapters are derived from my doctoral dissertation.  It was my intention to create a document for historians, musicologists, theorists, and others interested in the life of this interesting composer and prominent educator.  Hector Campos Parsi (1922-1989) was one of the pioneers of 20th century symphonic and chamber music in Puerto Rico.  He was the first local composer to achieve international prominence.  He created quality art music using nationalist and folkloric themes and gestures with Avant-garde techniques.  Campos freely admitted to being strongly influenced by the ideas and aesthetic of Bela Bartok, Alberto Ginastera and César Chavez.  He was encouraged by his teachers, Aaron Copland and Nadia Boulanger, to draw upon his ethnic and cultural heritage as a source of material and inspiration. 

His contribution was important in establishing Puerto Rico’s unique modern cultural identity. Sylvia Lamoutte who was music reviewer for El Nuevo Día assessed Campos Parsi's importance.  In "Dean of the composers"1 she wrote: "Dean of Puerto Rican composers of all eras, first to break the barriers of insularity and to be able to face the important international composers of our time as a peer,...Hector Campos Parsi is one of our most distinguished personalities."2

After I began this project, I realized that Campos was not only important because of his contributions to Puerto Rican music, but also because he was an active participant to many of the important educational, political and cultural developments of his time.  He was prominent in developing quality music education programs for the emerging public school system and the conservatory of music founded by Pablo Casals. 

To understand the importance of Campos Parsi's work for Puerto Rico one must consider the multitude of projects in which he was involved.  Donald Thompson writing in Groves Dictionary of Music3 commented:
"He returned to Puerto Rico in 1955 and has since taken an active part in its educational and cultural life, notably as advisor to government sponsored Free Schools of Music, as organizer of the cultural promotion program of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, as director of that agency's musical events, publications and research, and as professor of composition and theory at the Puerto Rico Conservatory."

Gustavo Batista, Professor of Music at the University of Puerto Rico, stated4: "On his return from France in 1953 (sic) he began to work for the government.  His first job was as advisor to the Free Schools of Music.  He helped transform them from free to academic and part of the solfege curriculum was designed by him.  He introduced the use of Paul Hindemith's book for musical training on the island."5    

He was actively involved in promoting classical music to a broader audience through his work with the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, WIPR the public radio and television stations, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, and the Casals Festival.  In addition, his life spans an important period bridging contemporary Puerto Rican music, culture and politics with that of the late 19th century. 

I was privileged to be allowed complete and direct access by the composer to all of his documents, records, photos, and memorabilia.  The composer himself was the main source of information and materials for this document.  A series of in person interviews with the composer provided most of the data for this research.  More than ten interviews were conducted and each lasted approximately four hours.  These interviews were recorded on cassette tape for reference and documentation.  Most of them were conducted during the years 1987-1991. 

I also obtained data from traditional academic sources as Groves Dictionary, the Riemann Musiklexicon8 and Slonimsky's Cyclopedia9.  These offered short biographical captions, acknowledged his teachers and briefly listed some of his works.  However, the most recent of these entries is from 1974 (Groves).  Two databases, Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) at the Library of Congress and Research Library Information Network (RLIN) listed some of his works and recordings.  A search through Doctoral Dissertations in Musicology, and Dissertation Abstract International (DAI) revealed no listing under Campos Parsi or related headings before my work.   With the exception of a master's thesis by Fernando Caso10 there were no extant works that dealt with the life and work of Hector Campos Parsi in a scholarly fashion. 

Campos Parsi gave numerous interviews to local newspapers and other print and broadcast media before and after that time, but I believe that my conversations with him represent the most authentic and in depth expressions of his opinions regarding his music, and Puerto Rican history and culture.  While most of the information he provided to me was independently corroborated by other sources, some of it could not be completely documented by external or secondary sources.  Such material has been included because it was determined to be plausible and because the information came from the direct recollection of the primary source, and illustrates well the subject's perception of his historical and artistic development.

Other sources of information included prominent musicians, composers, educators and administrators such as Luz Hutchinson, Cecilia Talavera, Mercedes Campos Parsi, Jack Delano, Ricardo Alegría, and Amaury Veray.  Information was also obtained from the archives of the Puerto Rican Conservatory of Music, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, Casals Festival Inc., the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, University of Puerto Rico, and WIPR-TV.  Important sources were also found in several newspapers and periodicals, extant and defunct, they include: El Nuevo Día, The San Juan Star, El Mundo, El Reportero, El Nacional, The Island Record, El Vocero, and others.  The numerous sources of data used herein have been documented in the Bibliography.      

There was much support for an in depth study of Campos Parsi's life and work.  The leading musicians, educators, composers, and performers on the island agreed that his story was worth telling.  Interest and support for this project was evident in a letter written to me by Ricardo Alegría,6 founder and past director of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, one of the leading authorities in the field of Puerto Rican culture.  In this letter dated 31 October, 1988, he wrote: "Your interest in writing about the musical work of the Puerto Rican composer Hector Campos Parsi has my support.  Without doubt Campos Parsi is one of the main composers of Puerto Rico and in general of the Caribbean.  Apart from his own work, Campos Parsi has been a positive force in the promotion of music and culture in general.  For many years he directed the Music Program of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, where he did a commendable job."7    

The time span of this document focuses on the years from 1898 to 1989, divided into three large subdivisions:

    A) 1899 - 1922

    B) 1922 - 1955

    C) 1955 – 1989

These periods are extremely important for the history of Puerto Rico and thus provide a framework suitable for my document.  As I wrote the document some of the issues I was interested in became the central questions to be answered:    

     1. What were the early cultural influences on the composer?

     2. Did the family environment provide a musically stimulating environment?

     3. When were his first attempts to create music?

     4. Was a musical career a first choice?

     5. Where did he begin his musical training?

     6. When did he decide he would be a composer?

     7. What were his first compositional influences?

     8. Whom did he credit as his most important teacher?

     9. What was his first important composition?

     10. What historical conditions contributed to favorable opportunities for the composer?

     11. Who was his strongest musical influence outside the field of composing?

A comprehensive search indicates that his catalog contains seventy-seven musical works.  Twenty of these works have been published and/or recorded.  Campos Parsi's music continues to be performed and is an important part of the Puerto Rican concert repertoire.  The following procedure was implemented in order to produce the catalogue of his music: 

     1. Works were organized in chronological order.

     2. Works were assigned to specific categories such as chamber music, solo, songs, symphonic, etc.

     3. The instrumentation of all works was noted.

     4. Dates of publication were listed.

     5. A list of recordings was compiled including the names of the artists, label, dates and duration.

     6. A list of commissions, prizes and awards is included.  


     1Lamoutte S. "El decano de los compositores Puertorriqueños" El Nuevo Día, Newspaper, 30 November 1986, San Juan, PR.

     2Decano de los compositores Puertorriqueños de todas las épocas, primero en romper las barreras del insularismo e imponerse de tú a tú con los compositores internacionales del momento,....   Hector Campos Parsi es una de nuestras primeras figuras.

     3Thompson D. "Hector Campos Parsi" The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Ed. S. Sadie, London: Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980, Vol. 3, 662.

     4Batista G. "Hector Campos Parsi" (In three parts)

El Reportero, Newspaper, 18-20 November 1982, San Juan, PR.

     5A su regreso de Francia en 1953 comienza a trabajar con el gobierno.  Su primer compromiso fue como asesor de las Escuelas Libres de Música.  Ayudó a trasformarlas de libres en académicas y parte del programa de solfeo fue diseado por él.  Introdujo el libro de Paul Hindemith al sistema de entrenamiento musical de la isla.

     8"Hector Campos Parsi" Sohlmans Musiklexicon Astrand, H. ed., Stockholm: Sohlmans Forlag, 1975

     9Slonimsky, N. "Hector Campos Parsi" The International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians. Seventh Edition, New York.

     10Hector Campos Parsi in the history of twentieth century of Puerto Rico Caso F. MM Thesis, Musicology, Indiana University, 1972

     6For a copy of the original letter see Appendix D of original dissertation.

     7Su interés por escribir sobre la obra musical del compositor Puertorriqueño Hector Campos Parsi tiene mi apoyo.  Sin lugar a dudas, Hector Campos Parsi es uno de los principales compositores de Puerto Rico y en general, del Caribe.  Aparte de su obra personal, Campos Parsi ha sido una fuerza positiva en la divulgación de la música y la cultura en general.  Dirigió por muchos años el Programa de Música del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, donde realizó una labor meritoria.

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