A CENTRAL FIGURE in the Atlanta musical community for decades, the violinist, composer and conductor Juan R. Ramírez-Hernández began his musical education in Mexico, later moving to the United States to study with Joseph Silverstein at the New England Conservatory. His studies with Henryk Szeryng began at the age of fourteen and continued as he became his principal mentor in Mexico, the U.S. and Europe.
Under the tutelage of conductor Leon Barzin, Ramírez was the recipient of both the Serge Koussevitzky and Leonard Bernstein awards at the Tanglewood Music Festival.
Mr. Ramírez has performed and conducted in numerous countries throughout Europe and Asia, as well as in Israel and Mexico. The distinguished composer-conductor Gunther Schuller stated his “unqualified faith in Mr. Ramírez as a violinist and a musical leader of great artistic integrity” and noted that “whatever he undertakes is touched by quality.”
He has won numerous awards and honors along the way, including Lexus Leader of the Arts by WABE Public Radio of Atlanta and WPBA Television for “his outstanding contributions, his pursuit of excellence in music and for his initiating and serving several community music organizations in the arts community”, the Loridans Arts Award, and the Governor’s Award in the Humanities.
Known throughout the state as a music advocator and educator, Mr. Ramírez founded Music for Success! – an educational program under the auspices of the Atlanta Virtuosi Foundation in partnership with metro Atlanta educational institutions, providing string training by professional musicians to young elementary and middle school children of many backgrounds.
He generously volunteers his time, energy and expertise to music students in the Atlanta area and beyond.
In addition to his extensive career as a performer and conductor, Ramírez is also a prolific composer incorporating the sounds of his native Mexico into his works. His compositions include Anahuac for tenor, soprano, winds, strings, and pre-Columbian percussion, commissioned in 1993 by the ACOG –Cultural Olympiad as part of ¡MEXICO! A Cultural Tapestry. Ramírez’ Suite Criolla for tenor, soprano, chorus, narrator and orchestra debuted in 1995 at the Hispanic Festival of the Arts, and his Navidad Hispana for solo guitar and orchestra was given its premiere by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with the composer as the guitar soloist. Ramírez’ Suite Huasteca for violin, strings and guitar earned critical acclaim in both the U.S. and Mexico, and in 2008 received its European premiere in Barcelona, Spain. His Elegy for violin and piano was written in memory of the Holocaust and received its world premiere at the Temple in Atlanta during the 70th commemoration of “Kristallnacht” 1938-2008 the Day of the Broken Glass. Ramírez was featured as guest composer for his US world premiere of Suite Latina for string quartet and string orchestra at the Bellingham Festival of Music, Washington.
Mr. Ramírez has been a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra since 1974 and is the founder and artistic director of the Atlanta Virtuosi Foundation, Buckhead Youth Orchestra, Casa de la Cultura-Atlanta, and is music director and conductor emeritus of the Atlanta Community Symphony Orchestra. Many of his commissioned compositions have been world premiered in Atlanta, New York, Budapest, Collonges sous Salève, Geneva and Monaco. His recent Elegy for violin, cello, piano and soprano, composed for the pancreatic cancer research fundraiser ART-CAN, was choreographed and performed with members of the Atlanta Ballet.
Mr. Ramírez has served on the Board of Directors of Childhood Cancer, the Sphinx Organization and the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art and received the World Chamber of Commerce Cultural International Hero Award. Mr. Ramírez received in 2007 the Martin Luther King, Jr., César Chavez, Rosa Parks Visiting Professor from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He holds the title of “Presidential Professor” at the University of Michigan, the highest honor “given to visiting artists and scholars, recognizing distinguished individuals for their extraordinary achievements.” Mr. Ramirez was awarded the League of American Orchestras 2018 Ford Foundation Musician Award for Excellence in Community Service. He is very proud to have been awarded the 2018 Ohtli Award, one of the highest honors from the Mexican Government, recognizing individuals who have “aided, empowered or positively affected the lives of Mexican nationals in the United States and around the world”. Recently Mr. Ramírez was awarded by the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as “The 50 Most Influential Latinos in Georgia.
A Letter From Juan
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Dear ACSO friends,
First of all I want to thank you for your wonderful playing last Friday. It was an intense week producing this concert. I enjoyed the concert reception and seeing many old friends, you and your guests. It has been a great opportunity for me to be with you all these years. We have performed a wide range of musical styles in many venues reaching out to new appreciative audiences. Even though there are many community and civic orchestras in metro Atlanta, ACSO has remained musically unique. This past week, family from Mexico City came to hear my last concert as soloist and conductor, including my niece, Annita and sister Connie, now 91 years old, plus family from Virginia and Atlanta. It was a unique opportunity for my two granddaughters, Lena and Caeley, to know my sister Connie. We took lots of photos for the next generation.
I also want to thank you for giving me the scrapbook “A Book of Beautiful Memories” and the Beethoven Violin Concerto precious facsimile! I performed this concerto in Boston and it is near my heart. Music has been my life since I was born in a home full of music, musicians, instruments and many gatherings with my parent’s friends and family. I started my first lessons on violin at the age of 4 years old. My sister Connie reminded me that she used to take me to my violin lessons when I was 6 years old. I did not remember this but do remember going to my violin lessons with great anticipation and eagerness to learn more from my first teacher.
The membership of the orchestra has changed since 1999, just as life goes through changes, and good changes! It is my hope that ACSO continues its goals and when you choose your new conductor, continues to present successfully many concerts in our metro Atlanta community.
My mentor, friend and teacher, Henryk Szeryng always told me “…When our master composers gave birth to their beautiful works they were thinking that their music will always survive with great interpreters ……what they wrote with their hands gave us a piece of heaven and we must continue preserving their celestial music.”
We have something very special in common among us that all of you and I love music and understand and enjoy the beauty that music gives us.
For now, I will not say goodbye, but will leave you with these words…”at the beginning, our earth’s creation produced a large explosion full of great frequencies thereby giving us the universal song of eternity. Music is a gift from God and we are his messengers. Music is our soul!
With great appreciation,