An Approach to the History of Music Education in Latin America Part II: Music Education 16th-18th Centuries

By de Couve, Alicia C.; Dal Pino, Claudia et al. | Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, April 2004 | Go to article overview

An Approach to the History of Music Education in Latin America Part II: Music Education 16th-18th Centuries


de Couve, Alicia C., Dal Pino, Claudia, Frega, Ana Lucia, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education


This article follows up on research published in the Bulletin of Historical Research in Music Education in September 1997, on the subject of music education in Argentina from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. (1) The purpose of this second study is to provide a general panorama of music teaching in the rest of Latin America during the same period, applying the same methodology and categorization of data. Because the colonizing movement began in the Caribbean Islands and extended across Latin America, examples have been selected to give punctual data from different countries that may serve as a basis to introduce the tendencies in music education in Latin America. Some similarities and differences between music education in Argentina and in other Latin American countries will be discussed.

Institutionalized Music Education

The previous article on Argentina and a diachronic study on music training Institutions (2) both noted that the Catholic Church exercised an outstanding role in music education during the colonial period. Almost every important ecclesiastical see sustained music training, through chapel masters' action. Different sources provide data refering to the insular region, especially in the present Dominican Republic: "Since 1512 there were two bishoprics, one of la Vega and the other of Saint Domingo de Guzman, that had chapel masters, organists and choruses." (3) "The archdiocese of Santo Domingo was created in 1504 by Julio II's papal bull. The Cathedral was finished in 1540. When its construction was authorized in 1512, a chapel master and an organist were included." (4)

Similar information has been obtained regarding Cuba. In the decree establishing the music chapel of the Santiago de Cuba Cathedral dated February 10, 1682, Bishop Juan Garcia de Palacios was appointed, "to entrust Domingo de Flores, city neighbor, the music in organ chant for the Saint Cathedral." (5) This musician was asked to conduct the music activity and to teach children and priests, or anyone else who expressed interest, the organ chant in order to celebrate Mass in a decent way especially on solemn or festival days. In his contract he was granted seventy-five pesos per year and,

   ... was obliged by himself and by all the chapel members to attend
   Church and to sing vespers and masses on the most solemn days as
   those of first class, Palm Sundays, Holy Maundy, Good Friday,
   Easter Saturday, November twenty-nine, Saint Sacrament Fetes and
   any other celebrations held in such Church as well as those of
   brotherhoods but at private ones performed by devoted people at
   which he will have no obligation to assist unless he receives a
   payment according to his work. The same is understood for fetes
   performed at convents and hermits. The named Domingo Flores will
   have the duty to compose at least one complete mass per year, plus
   Christmas carols and songs to be sung at Church in vespers and in
   Christmas celebrations. He also has to compose for less solemn
   occasions. (6)

In South American territories there were similar situations. It is known that Juan Perez Materano was chapel master in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, from 1534 to 1552. (7) In the Brazilian colony, governed by the Portuguese Crown, the positions of chapel master and two chorus singers were created on December 4, 1551 at the Salvador see by royal letter. On August 17, 1552 the bishop of Salvador had already appointed musicians for the charge. (8) In the Captaincy General of Chile, in the city of Santiago de Chile:

   In 1725 the Ecclesiastical Cabildo [cathedral chapter] determined
   the budget to create several musician positions for the
   metropolitan chanting house, including one of chapel master, that
   will receive a payment of 350 pesos per year, that were increased
   to 408 two months later by Bishop Don Francisco Salcedo, 'with the
   duty to teach music to the chorus children and to provide lessons
   to all singers, because it was necessary that all clergymen could
   skillfully sing the plain chant and the organ or polyphonic one, as
   we have the experience that natives became pious by hearing music
   and chant. … 

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