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Antonio Mara Valencia

He was born on november 10 of 1902 in Cali, and he died 50 years later, in 1952.
He was a colombian musician and composer, considered one of the most
enterprising figures in the music of the first half of the XX century.
We owe hem, probably, all the musical culture of the city.
He raised in a big house located in the 11th Street, in the downtown of Cali
He began his musical studies in his home: his father, Julio Valencia, wich wasnt
pianist but celo player, gave him piano lessons since he was 8 years old. After two
years of this musical training, everyone could clearly see that he was extremely
talented. He never received lessons of anyone but his father. In 1912, Antonio
wrote his first composition, which he called Himno al regimiento ricaute de
Bogot. By this time, at his 12 years of life, he had been in the school San Luis
Gonzaga, but he had decided to change to Santa Librada, school where he
could get a remarcable knowledge of history, culture, sciences and analysis.
Two years later he traveled to Panama and some cities in the south of the United
States as a concertist, where he received critics like: This boy plays, because God
wants to. How is it that he plays this well and his only teacher has been his father?
In 1918 he moved to Bogot, where he rejected an scolarship at the
Conservatorio Nacional because of his desires of receive particular lessons from
Honorio Alarcn. When his MAESTRO died, he returned to Cali for a while, but he
went back to Bogot and got in to the conservatory. In this years he performed in
several recitals, in that time he was already well-known.
At first he planned to study in Belgium with Jongen but that possibility did not work
In 1932 he traveled to Paris, where he applied fot Schola Cantorum, because of
Guillermo Uribe Holgun, a very important colombien composer, who had studied
there, and who had gave him recommendation letters
Paris fightens, excites, disheartens with his marvelous beauty. Upon arriving, a
person iseverywhere and nowhere as Valencia wrote.
Valencia performed an audition in front of a jury, presided by Vincent dIndy, the
director of the Schola Cantorum, who was quiet satisfied with Valencias

interpretation of a Bachs fugue and with his sightreading of one od dIndys own
preludes wich the composer himself placed on the music rack. Upon completing
the exam, dIndy asked Valencia if he had composed anything, Valencia the played
his Danza Colombiana for piano, wich pleased MAESTRO dIndy very much. He
was accepted.
Now, his piano profesor would be Paul Braud, who became father, friend and guide
during more tan fiver years; and Vincent dIndy would be his composition profesor.
Braud got him a place to stay in the house of Madame Champier, where he lived
since 1923 to 1929.
At the Schola Cantorum he studied the whole curriculum in three years when it was
designed to be studied in five years, and he graduated first at teacher and then as
a concertist.
At the class of Paul Braud he met Joaquin Nin-Culmell, who would be his closest
friend, and there are some letterss that le tus know that Valencia was actually in
love with him, but there are no signs that Joaquin ever knew it.
Antonio is a powerfully sweet musiciian yet theres still a contradition between his
art and his life. In his life he follows the weakest aspects of Oriental philosophy:
fatalism, inactivity, apathy, futile daydreaming. He disdains exercise, health,
higiene, physical beuaty, and strenght and struggle and rebelin. He is calm,
exasperating, complacent, obstinate, schooled and rash. Creation to him is a
mistake he does not contest, even when it affects him. Wrote Anais-Nin in her
He became well-known not only in Paris but in the whole Europe, but he felt the
desire to come back to Colombia because of his patriotism, and his dream to
create a model school of music here in Colombia.
Thats why in 1929 he came back to Cali, after performing several times in Europe.
He cut-off all the conections with the people he loved in Paris. He gave some
important concerts in Cali and then in Bogota. After this Guillermo Uribe Holgun,
the director of the National Conservatory offered him a position at the Conservatory
as a teacher and administratorof that institution.

Guillermo and Antonio became really good friend and beautiful team, they gave
concerts several times in Bogot, is theaters as important as it is the Coln.
But then it came the society and the press, where they began to be criticized. The
followers of both sides (Antonio and Guillermo) in the conservatory made enemies
of these two great music figures.
In 1932 Valencia published a short work with his opinin about what an academy of
music shoud be, this situation increased the enmity between them two, followed by
a kind of dialogue in the newspaper in wich each defend his point of view.
Then Valencia became jobless because of that, and he couldnt return to Cali,
because here he wouldnt find any support with his ideas of art and music. But
Susana Lopez, Rosala Cruz and Elvira Restrepo went to the city council, because
they knew the desire of Antonio to begin his academy of music, and they knew too
that he had no money, so in the counsil they got 150 pesos to begin with that
project. The idea was to create an academy without the mistakes that the
Conservatorio Nacional already had.
He wanted that all the instruments could be taugh, hopefully, and that it could be
for people of all the economic and social enviroments, and thats one of the
reasons because he began to be criticized again: he already had been in trouble
with musicians in Bogot, and now he, that was gay and morphine-addicted,
wanted to direct a conservatory in Cali. That was what was said at the tea of 4 of
the afternoon by the mouths of people of the high society in Cali. The couldnt
even think in poor and rich people studying at the same academy, and it
became wort when they noticed that the prefered student of Master Valencia was
Luis Carlos Figueroa, a young men, not from the society, but with an incredible
talent that Antonio saw.
Despite the criticizim, the conservatory became well-known in the whole country:
its Palestrina Choral, the orchestra, he bagan the radio boadcast concerts. He
became a pioneer in all of this.
He composed several pieces not only for piano but also for chamber groups and

Nostalgia is highlited a lot in his compositions, his love for Colombia. His art is
rigurous looking it thecnically, but he didnt let that overshadow the sensibility of
what he composed, wich make his pieces perfect.
The years passed and he dedicated everything to his art, to the conservatory, to
his students, but the addiction problema increased. The gouvernment had to send
him many times to a hospital in Bogota when he had big lows, but one day, when
he got bad again they stopped doing that: he was beggining to be forgotten, and
many af his new students werent satisfied with him, because his addiction was so
ig that he even injected himself in class, maybe not pretending that his students
would see it, but he actually was pretty bad, so they(the students) got the
gouverment to take him out of the conservatory that he had actually made what it
Cali is the stepmother of her children
He was shut away in his house for two years after he left the conservatory, he was
very depressed.
It is like they had taken away my child said Antonio to Susana Lopez once.
In his last days he used to burn his music, the sheets that he had written along his
One morning he awoke with a pain in his neck, as if he had slept in a bad position,
but they called a doctor and discovered that it was tetanus. They couldnt find the
vaccine in the whole city, and they even ask on radio, but no one had it, so as the
day passed he felt that he was getting stiff, and to avoid that he asked his sister
(Rosario Valencia) to help him to walk by the side of the piano, and they did that
the whole afternoon, and part of the night, until he got tired, and he decided to sit,
and he lay his head on her sisters shoulder, and he died that way on July 22 of
1952. His last public performance was on April 24 of the same year
If there is any cultural life in Cali, if there are concerts, if theres an academy of
music, it is because of him.