(No. 14 of the Black Composers series)
Felipe Gutiérrez y Espinosa (1825-1899) was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was one of the first classical composers on the island, and by far the most important Puerto Rican composer of operas and religious music in the 1800s. Largely self-taught, Gutiérrez joined the army as a musician at a young age. His gifts were quickly recognized, and he became the bandmaster of his battalion at 20. He later earned the post of choirmaster for the San Juan Cathedral, where he stayed for 40 years. Gutiérrez's impact on the cultural life of Puerto Rico still reverberates today, as he is revered for his work as a composer, a frequent conductor for concerts at the municipal theater, and ran a free music school that nurtured generations of musicians to follow.