March 2011

The Cochabamba Conservatory of Music

The Conservatory of Music in Cochabamba was founded
by the musician Teófilo Vargas in 1907.

Walter Sanchez C.
de Investigaciones

The Conservatory of Music in Cochabamba was created by musician Teófilo Vargas in 1907. It was one of the most important institutions at the beginning of the 20th century in the city, founded before the National Conservatory of Music (La Paz, 1908). The information regarding this conservatory can be found in the School of Music (Escuela Musical) which was organized by Vargas in his own home in 1894 and was refounded in 1905 as the Cochabamba Conservatory of Music. This change was made due to the great demand and the need to improve musical educational levels and as a result of this change the school took on a new legal status on March 24, 1907.

The newspaper El Heraldo (25. III.1907, N º 5010), in a simple note announced the following: “Yesterday, the members of the musical center met in Mr.Teófilo Vargas’s house. After discussions, mutual agreements foresaw a nomination of a new board, which was held by the following people: The Director - Teófilo Vargas; President-Miguel Gumucio; Vicepresident - Alfredo Wieler; Secretary - Roberto Wieler; Treasurer - Juan Chiarella.”

Before the first operational month, the Conservatory had already approved its bylaws.

Before the first operational month, the Conservatory had already approved its bylaws (IV, 11. 1907), just as the letter directed to Ernesto Urquidi indicates, published in the El Heraldo newspaper: “Gentlemen. The board in the meeting last night decided to extend, unanimously, a vote of confidence for your excellent work regarding the bylaws, which displayed a carefully thought-out plan of great skill. I take great pleasure in having the opportunity to inform you all of this well deserved resolution. I also want to take this opportunity to express the consideration and respect I have for you all.” (IV, 12. 1907, N º 5023).

Within less than two weeks of its establishment, the Conservatory announced its first “musical, vocal and instrumental concert”, noting that the money of the concert would be destined to benefit the Viedma Hospital (El Heraldo, IV, 6. 1907, N º 5017). The fact that the press followed this event is evidence of the importance of the institution as a part of the city’s cultural life. On June 9, 1907 the press stated, “… the day before yesterday the first rehearsal was undertaken by the members of the Cochabamba Conservatory of Music, at Mr. Teófilo Vargas’ home. The promising success of this In edition N º 5026 (June 18, 1907) of the El Heraldo newspaper, a journalist commented that, “…the members of the Cochabamba Conservatory of Music met yet again to practice for their upcoming concert“. The following day the newspaper stated, “Tonight the members of Cochabamba Conservatory of Music will meet, play and make final decisions for the concert on Sunday, which is expected to be very crowded.

A further comment on the practice was published in the June 18,1907 edition (Nº 5028): “Yesterday evening the orchestral rehearsal of the music that will be performed in the upcoming concert took place. We had the opportunity to listen to the performance and we can verify that this will be the best concert performed in our theatre for our time, both in scale and the performers skills. This concert will be a real event in the country. Last night it was decided that the concert will be held next Wednesday, 24 of June at night, as our theatre is not suitable for daytime displays. With the desire to provide detailed information, our journalist has obtained a copy of the program for this project.” This program was divided into three parts that included performances belonging to Universal compositors, such as Rossini, Bellini, Von Souppe, Meyerbeer, Boieldieu, Donizetty and Beriot.

The expectation of the concert was so large that the Conservatory decided, “…to put the theatre seats for the performance prepared by the ´Cochabamba Conservatory of music´ in aid of the Hospital into a public sale, to answer the extraordinary demand of tickets as well as to avoid sensitivities from the distribution of these tickets…The auction will be verified tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Hall.

The concert was a total success. The press emphasized the majesty of the orchestra and the virtuosity of teacher Vargas in the violin but, especially, the artistic talent and the beauty of the female artists: ”The audience was delighted with Miss Concepción Guzman’s spiritual beauty and artistic skills; Concepción was enthusiastically acclaimed with flowers after playing a part of Norma on violin. Miss María C. Zambrana proved to be a master at playing the piano - her ability making up for the instrument’s deficiency, as the piano exhibited was not of high quality. The piano accompaniments of the beautiful and gifted Miss Victoria Guzmán earned her many flowers and applause, leaving the audience satisfied; as did Dolores Escalera. The young and beautiful Miss Maria Ponce showed to be a worthy disciple of Vargas, surprising the audience with her ability to play the violin.”

The concert began with Mr. Salgado institutional presentation outlining the history of the foundation of the Conservatory of music: “Master Vargas initiated the idea, who was at the time a well known and accomplished Bolivian musician. And the staff, organized by teachers who developed this idea to unselfishly impart their knowledge, came rushing to Vargas’ call to lend their expertise and cooperation in the difficult task created. The Conservatory was made up of both: beautiful and spiritual ladies, who were made like seductive and aromatic flowers from a rare and exotic garden, representing the most salient and delicate face of the institution. And also, the courageous and determined young male music lovers, whose valuable contingent will always help preserve the Cochabamba Musical Conservatory with vigour and life.” (El Heraldo 25.IV.1907)

On November, 1957 the members of the directory gathered in the Extraordinary Assembly where they decided to change the name of the Conservatory to 'Teofilo Vargas' named after the founder and Director.

By 1925, the Conservatory of music had grown “sustained only by the director and the teachers board.” The teachers board was composed by: Teófilo Vargas (director and choirmaster), Lola Vila and Genaro Sanjinés (piano), Concepción G. Müller’s widow, Ernesto Bauer and Víctor Rodrigo (violín), Antonio Vargas (music theory and singing), Luís Meruvia(recitation) Jorge Solís and Alberto Rivas (drawing), Alejandro Guardia and Antonio Jordán (flute), Conrado Rodríguez and Luciano Cornejo (cello) all of whom worked at Master Vargas house. Alejandro Arauco’s article, published in the book `Bolivia in its First Independence Century´ (USA: The University Society, 1925), illustrates the Conservatory’s philosophical approach: “In the concert hall that the Director has adopted in his own house, students from different sections received free lessons, taught by the teachers already mentioned. The work of the Cochabamba Conservatory of Music is highly idealistic; it possesses the aspiration to spread and create the art of national music, based on the study of harmony and the belief that altruistic ideals begin with altruistic ends.

On November, 1957 the members of the directory gathered in the Extraordinary Assembly where they decided to change the name of the Conservatory to `Teófilo Vargas´ named after the founder and Director. The death of Teofilo Vargas in 1961 marked the end of this institution as the remaining members of the board were not able to keep their doors opened and had no choice but to close the Cochabamba Conservatory of Music for good.

Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológias
article was translated thanks to the agreement between Projects Abroad and the Departament of Ligüistica Aplicada a la Enseñanza de Lenguas - Faculty Advisor Mgr. Mónica Ruiz

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