Chiquinha Gonzaga

Modern Period

Born in Brazil

Chiquinha Gonzaga was a composer, pianist and the first woman conductor in Brazil. Chiquinha’s mother was the daughter of a slave and her father was a white man from a noble family who defied that family to marry her. As part of a military family, Gonzaga was well educated, learning to read and write, do math and play the piano. She composed her first piece of music when she was 11. Music was Gonzaga’s passion. Her family arranged for her to be married to naval officer. But when he disapproved of her music, Chiquinha chose music over him causing a scandal. She then worked as a piano teacher and performer to support her children. Welcomed by the artistic community, Gonzaga became successful as a composer and one of the first pianists of the Brazilian “choro” style of jaunty, fast music. Gonzaga’s music included elements from Brazilian culture and was known to mix Portuguese melodies with African traditional beats.