Plaza, Juan Bautista (1898–1965) By Labonville, Marie Elizabeth
Juan Bautista Plaza (Caracas, 19 July 1898–1 January 1965) was a Venezuelan composer, educator, writer, and musicologist active in Caracas; he was one of the principal figures in the development of the modern Venezuelan musical establishment. Trained in Rome as an organist and composer of sacred music, he served as chapel master of the Caracas cathedral for twenty-five years. At the same time he composed sacred and secular music in all genres except opera and symphony. As one of the first Venezuelan composers of art music to adopt a nationalist esthetic, he incorporated elements of Venezuelan folk music into some of his secular works. A dedicated educator, he taught the first music history course in Venezuela and created a music school for children. He helped organize Venezuela’s first choral society and first stable symphony orchestra. To create knowledgeable audiences, he developed a series of radio programmes on music appreciation. He contributed often to Caracas newspapers and magazines, publishing articles about music and local concert life. In 1936 he took charge of an archive of old music manuscripts, which enabled him to publish a set of scores from Venezuela’s colonial period and write scholarly articles about the music. His accomplishments led to his service as Venezuela’s Director of Culture (1944–46).