Cortés, Ramiro, 1933-1984

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Ramiro Cortés was born November 25, 1933, in Dallas, Texas, to Ramiro Cortés Sr. and Elvira Acosta Cortés, parents of Mexican origin. This marriage ended in divorce, when his father left the family in 1936. His brother, Arturo, was one year old. Ramiro began his piano studies at age eight and began composing at age eleven. When he was thirteen years old, his family moved to Denver, Colorado, where he continued his piano studies. He attended South High School where he composed many piano pieces, solo and choral works, and a musical show produced by his junior class. In 1950 he began theoretical studies with Joseph Iadone, a former student of Paul Hindemith. Cortés studied harmony, counterpoint, and twentieth century music with Iadone for two years.

In 1951 Cortés enrolled at the University of Denver where he received a full tuition scholarship. This enabled him to continue his studies with Iadone and begin a formal study of composition. Cortés submitted some of his compositions to the National Federation of Music Clubs' competition and was awarded the Charles Ives scholarship to study at the Indian Hill Music School in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, during the summer of 1952.

In the fall of 1952 he enrolled at the Yale School of Music and in 1953 was the recipient of the John Day Jackson Prize for his composition Introduction and Fugue for string quartet. Later that year he enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he studied with Halsey Stevens and Ingolf Dahl.

In 1954, Cortés received several awards for his works. Perhaps the most significant was the George Gershwin Memorial Award for Sinfonia Sacra which gave Cortés a great deal of national recognition.

Cortés was the recipient of the Steinway Centennial Award in 1955 for Piano Sonata and of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Prize for Yerma, A Symphonic Portrait. He received his bachelor of music degree from the University of Southern California that same year, and the following summer served as a fellow on the Huntington Hartford Foundation estate in Pacific Palisades.

During his year of graduate studies at the University of Southern California in 1956, Cortés continued his studies with Halsey Stevens and Ingolf Dahl. He received a Fulbright Scholarship to study composition with Goffredo Petrass in Rome. Later that year, he received first prize in the National Federation of Music Clubs Young Composers competition.

Cortés received a renewal of the Fulbright scholarship and spent a second year in Rome. The summer of 1958 was spent at the Huntington Hartford Foundation, where he worked on three sacred compositions which had been commissioned by the Concorda Society of Princeton. He was awarded first prize in the Broadcast Music Inc. Student Composers competition. The money from this award was used to finance Cortés' studies in composition at Princeton with Roger Sessions during the fall semester. While at Princeton, he composed a score commissioned by the Pittsburgh Bicentennial Association for a film on the history of Pittsburgh. While at Princeton, he also wrote a song cycle on poems by Herman Melville which earned him the George Bolek Memorial Award of the National Federation of Music Clubs. Cortés again returned to the Huntington Hartford Foundation for the summer of 1959.

In New York during February of 1960, Cortés married Nancee Heimbecher Charles--Charles was her professional name--whom he had met in junior high school. During that year he received the John Hay Whitney Foundation Fellowship. The most important score he produced was Symphony in Three Movements for small orchestra. He submitted this composition to the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium International Competition, and was awarded the silver medal.

Cortés enrolled at the Juilliard School of Music in 1961 and held the Rodgers and Hammerstein Scholarship. He received two additional awards while attending Juilliard: the Alexandre Gretchaninoff Memorial Prize and the Benjamin Prize. He finished course requirements for his master's degree in 1962. That same year he received an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

Cortés worked as a computer programmer for Systems Development Corporation from 1963 to 1966 when he was invited to be a visiting lecturer at the University of California at Los Angeles. The following year he was offered a faculty position at the University of Southern California, and in 1970 he was promoted to associate professor with tenure. In 1971 he and Nancee separated and were divorced a year later. In 1972-1973 he served as composer in residence at the University of Utah and the following year he joined the faculty as chair of theory and composition. He continued to teach at the University of Utah until his death in 1984. Cortés spent 1978-1979 in Los Angeles on sabbatical from the University of Utah. In the latter year, he and Nancee were remarried. He studied the works of Igor Stravinsky extensively, and presented fifty-five lectures on the music of Stravinsky for the Utah radio station KUER in 1982. Ramiro Cortés died of heart failure July 2, 1984, in Salt Lake City, Utah, at age fifty-one.

From the guide to the Ramiro Cortés music recordings, 1950s-1996, (J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Cortés, Ramiro, 1933-1984. Trio for, violin, cello, and piano. Harvard Musical Association
creatorOf Cortés, Ramiro, 1933-1984. Second string quartet. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Ramiro Cortés music recordings, 1950s-1996 J. Willard Marriott Library, University of UtahAudio Visual Archives
creatorOf Cortés, Ramiro, 1933-1984. Divertimento for flute, clarinet, and bassoon / by Ramiro Cortés. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Cortés, Nancee person
associatedWith Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971 person
associatedWith University of Utah corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
String quartets--Scores
Piano trios
Material Types
Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Moving Images
Hispanic Americans
Woodwind trios (Bassoon, clarinet, flute)--Scores
Sound Recordings


Birth 1933-11-25

Death 1984-07-02




Ark ID: w6000zw2

SNAC ID: 61101120