(1925 - 2006)

In memoriam of the Maestro Manuel Ochoa (1925-2006), whose love and passion for music began The Miami Symphony Orchestra back in 1989. His perseverance and determination that made his dream come alive will always be admired. We will miss him dearly.

“You need to have some of Don Quijote inside to create a symphony orchestra,” said Maestro Ochoa, founder and music director of The Miami Symphony Orchestra. This effort finds its roots in his family, from whom he inherited a profound musical tradition. His mother, Caridad Ochoa, was an excellent opera singer graduated from the Royal Conservatory San Fernando de Cadiz – where Manuel de Falla studied music. It was with his mother that at a very early age Maestro Ochoa began his music studies.

Born in Cuba, Manuel Ochoa made his professional debut at the age of 17 conducting Verdi’s Il Trovatore. From 1942 to 1946, he created and conducted the Choral Society. As Music Director of the Sociedad Coral, he presented renowned international artists – among them the famous Vienna Boys Choir, with whom a close collaboration was started. This relationship served as inspiration to create the “Ninos Cantores de la Habana” (Havana Boy’s Choir) for Cardinal Archbishop Monsignor Manuel Arteaga. Maestro Ochoa graduated from the Conservatorio Internacional de Musica in Havana, and began his rise to become the most famous choral conductor in Havana. He was the conductor of several of the best choirs in Havana – among them El Coro de Madrigalistas – considered the best choir in Cuba. With this group, he presented not only “a capella” polyphonic works but also combined several choirs for the premieres in Cuba of several symphonic-choral works. In Europe, he graduated from the Real Conservatorio de Madrid after receiving a scholarship from the Instituto de Cultura Hispanica. He then continued his studies of conducting technique at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome under Maestro Bonaventura Somma and in Vienna under Hermann Scherchen, an extraordinary musician and creator of the German School of Conducting. Upon returning to Cuba, he was named Professor of Conducting Techniques at the Conservatorio Nacional and conducted the Orquesta Filarmonica de la Habana. He then returned to Europe, where he conducted the Orquesta y Coro de la Radio Nacional de Espana, the Orquesta de Camara de Madrid and the Piccola Opera Di Roma. 

In 1959, Maestro Ochoa performed the music of Esteban Salas – which had been lost for 150 years. Esteban Salas, born in Cuba in 1725, is considered the first classical music composer of the Americas. His music was found in the Archives of the Santiago de Cuba Cathedral. In 1960, thanks to Maestro Ochoa’s initiative, the first recordings of Salas’ music were conducted, and his famous “Villancicos” was performed. Years later, the United States premiere of music by Esteban Salas was presented and conducted by Maestro Ochoa. 

With a long artistic history of 58 years of continued orchestral conducting, Maestro Ochoa gained the respect of the hundreds of musicians he conducted in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. In 1989, Maestro Manuel Ochoa founded The Miami Symphony Orchestra as a cultural expression of Miami’s multiethnic community. The Orchestra is unique in the United States; founded by a Hispanic conductor, the majority of the members of the Board of Directors are Hispanic and the Orchestra members are of 28 different nationalities. 

In June 2000, the Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Ochoa, fulfilled a lifelong dream with a great performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The exciting program featured music by Joaquin Turina, Joaquin Rodrigo and Alberto Ginastera, and culminated with Saint Saen’s masterpiece, Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony). The performance was warmly received with a long standing ovation by the audience.