I fell in love with music once I understood that sounds have souls, and it is through them that one may speak of oneself.
— Gabriela Ortiz
Latin Grammy-nominated Gabriela Ortiz is one of the foremost composers in Mexico today and one of the most vibrant musicians emerging on the international scene. Her musical language achieves an extraordinary and expressive synthesis of tradition and the avant-garde by combining high art, folk music and jazz in novel, frequently refined and always personal ways. Her compositions are credited for being both entertaining and immediate as well as profound and sophisticated; she achieves a balance between highly organized structure and improvisatory spontaneity.
Gustavo Dudamel, the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, called her recent work Téenek "one of the most brilliant I have ever directed. Its color, its texture, the harmony and the rhythm that it contains are all something unique. Gabriela possesses a particular capacity to showcase our Latin identity."
Ortiz has written music for dance, theater and cinema, and has actively collaborated with poets, playwrights, and historians. Indeed, her creative process focuses on the connections between gender issues, social justice, environmental concerns and the burden of racism, as well as the phenomenon of multiculturality caused by globalization, technological development, and mass migrations. She has composed three operas, in all of which interdisciplinary collaboration has been a vital experience. Notably, these operas are framed by political contexts of great complexity, such as the drug war in Only the Truth, illegal migration between Mexico and the United States in Ana and her Shadow, and the violation of university autonomy during the student movement of 1968 in Firefly.
Based in Mexico, Ortiz's music has been commissioned and performed all over the world by prestigious ensembles, soloists and orchestras, such as: the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Gustavo Dudamel and Esa Pekka Salonen, Zoltan Kocsis, Carlos Miguel Prieto, the Kroumata and Amadinda Percussion Ensembles, the Kronos Quartet, Dawn Upshaw, Sarah Leonard, the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Pierre Amoyal, Southwest Chamber Music, the Tambuco Percussion Quartet, the Hungarian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Malmo Symphony Orchestra, the Orquestra Simón Bolivar, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. Recent premieres include: Yanga and Téenek, both pieces commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, Luciérnaga (Firefly, her third opera) commissioned and produced by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Únicamente la Verdad (Only the Truth, her first opera) with Long Beach Opera and Opera de Bellas Artes in Mexico.
Ortiz has been honored with the National Prize for Arts and Literature, the most prestigious award for writers and artists granted by the government of Mexico, and has been inducted into the Mexican Academy of the Arts. Other honors include: the Bellagio Center Residency Program, Civitella Ranieri Artistic Residency; a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship; a Fulbright Fellowship; first prize in the Silvestre Revueltas National Chamber Music Competition; first prize in the Alicia Urreta Composition Competition; a Banff Center for the Arts Residency; the Inroads Commission (a program of Arts International with funds from the Ford Foundation); a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation; and the Mozart Medal Award.
Born in Mexico City, her parents were musicians in the renowned folk music ensemble Los Folkloristas, founded in 1966 to preserve and record the traditional music of Mexico and Latin America. She trained with the eminent composer Mario Lavista at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música and Federico Ibarra at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. In 1990 she was awarded the British Council Fellowship to study in London with Robert Saxton at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In 1992 she received a scholarship from the UNAM to complete her Ph.D. studies in electroacoustic music composition with Simon Emmerson at The City University in London.
Ortiz currently teaches composition at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City and as a Visiting Professor at Indiana University. Her music is currently published by Schott, Ediciones Mexicanas de Música, Saxiana Presto, and Tre Fontane.