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Márquez was born in Álamos, Sonora, in 1950 where his interest in music began. Márquez is the first born of nine children of Arturo Márquez and Aurora Márquez Navarro. Márquez was the only one of the nine siblings who became a musician. Márquez's father was a mariachi musician in Mexico and later in Los Angeles and his paternal grandfather was a Mexican folk musician in the northern states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Because of Márquez's father and grandfather, he was exposed to several musical styles in his childhood, particularly Mexican "salon music" which would be the impetus for his later musical repertoire.
In his late childhood the family immigrated to Southern California settling in La Puente, a suburb of Los Angeles. There he attended Fairgrove Junior High school and William Workman High School. In junior high school he began to play the trombone under the direction of Mr. Rossetti, the school's band director, and continued playing in high school. While living in La Puente he started formal studies in music enrolling in violin and trombone lessons. He had started piano studies in Alamos, Sonora and when the family immigrated to the U.S. he continued more extensive piano lessons in the home of Mrs. Eva McGowan, a local piano teacher. He started composing at the age of 16 and then attended the Mexican Music Conservatory where he studied piano and music theory from 1970 to 1975. Subsequently, he studied composition from 1976 to 1979 with Federico Ibarra, Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras and Héctor Quintanar (Miranda 2001). Márquez was then awarded a scholarship by the French government to study composition in Paris with Jacques Casterede. Subsequently, in the U.S., he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and obtained a MFA in composition in 1990 from California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California (Miranda 2001). There he studied with Morton Subotnick, Mel Powell, Lucky Mosko, and James Newton.
Although Márquez was already an accomplished composer in Mexico, his music started to reach the international stage with the introduction of his series of Danzones in the early 1990s. The Danzones are based on the music of Cuba and the Veracruz region of Mexico. Danzón no. 2 was included on the program of the Simon Bolívar Youth Orchestra conducted by Gustavo Dudamel on their 2007 tour of Europe and the United States. As a result of the strong public response to the orchestra's performance of the piece, Danzón No. 2 has established itself as one of the signature pieces performed by the orchestra. It has also opened the door for the discovery of other pieces by the composer that are increasingly being performed throughout the world and extensively in Latin America. Son a Tamayo for harp, percussion and tape was featured at the 1996 World Harp Congress.
Márquez's music has been performed and recorded worldwide by a variety of chamber ensembles, symphony orchestras and soloists. He has composed numerous scores for film and dance works. He has received commissions and fellowships from among others, the Universidad Metropolitana de Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Festival Cervantino, Festival del Caribe, the World's Fair in Sevilla in 1992, the Rockefeller Foundation and Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, (CONACULTA). He currently works at the National University of Mexico, Superior School of Music and CENIDIM (National Center of Research, Documentation and Information of Mexican Music). He lives with his family in Mexico City.
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Márquez has been the recipient of several prestigious awards and honors. Márquez was awarded the National Arts and Sciences (Premio Nacional de Artes y Ciencias) award of Mexico by President Felipe Calderón on December 14, 2009. In February 2006, he made history when he became the first musician to receive "La Medalla De Oro De Bellas Artes de Mexico" (Gold Medal of Fine Arts of Mexico), one of Mexico's most coveted award for career accomplishments in the fine arts. Other awards have included the Medalla Mozart (awarded by the Austrian embassy), Medalla Dr. Alfonso Ortiz Tirado, California Institute of the Arts Distinguished Alumnus Award, Unión de Cronistas de Música y de Teatro, and many others. In 2000, the German public paid homage to the composer at a concert in his honor in Berlin.
Márquez has also been honored at several musical festivals throughout Latin America where his music has been performed extensively and has obtained a large following. In 2005, the Arturo Márquez International Music Festival was commenced in Caracas, Venezuela in honor of the composer. In 2014, Márquez was honored as Composer-in-Residence during the Caribbean Tour of YOA Orchestra of the Americas. His Danzones are increasingly being used for ballet productions throughout the world. Although regarded by many as a controversial composer for his use of Latin American styles in his compositions, he is a popular composer among the Latin American public and is widely recognized as one of the most important and admired Mexican composers of his generation.
- Leyenda De Miliano, for orchestra
- Danzón No. 1, for orchestra
- Danzón no. 2, for orchestra, or symphonic band
- Marcha a Sonora
- Espejos en la Arena, for cello and orchestra
- Danzón no. 3, for flute, guitar and small orchestra
- Danzón no. 4, for chamber orchestra
- Danzón no. 5, portales de madrugada, for Clarinet Quartet
- Zarabandeo, for clarinet and piano
- Son a tamayo, for harp and percussion and tape (featured at the 1996 World Harp Congress), which, along with Música para Mandinga, is an electroacoustic composition
- Octeto Malandro
- Danza de Mediodía, for wind quintet
- Días de Mar y Río
- En Clave, for piano
- Homenaje a Gismonti, for string quartet
- Paisajes bajo el signo de cosmos, for orchestra
- Noche de luna, for chorus and orchestra
- La pasión según San Juan de Letrán, De máscaras
- Danzón No. 8, Homenaje to Maurice, for orchestra
- Conga del Fuego Nuevo, for orchestra
- Alas (a Malala), for clarinet, orchestra, and choir
- Esquer, José Carlos. Mar que es arena, danzones y espejos: Un acercamiento a la obra del compositor Arturo Márquez. Hermosillo: Instituto Sonorense de Cultura, 2009. ISBN 978-607-7598-08-4.
- Miranda Pérez, Ricardo. 2001. "Márquez (Navarro), (Jesús) Arturo". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
- Rumbaut, Luis. "The Folk Spirit in Orchestral Music". Clave Magazine (May 2002):[page needed]
- Palapa, Fabiola, Claudia Herrera, and Mónica Mateos. "México es un país afortunado en géneros musicales, dijo Arturo Márquez". La Jornada, December 15, 2009.
- http://www.peermusicclassical.com/composer/composerdetail.cfm?detail=marquez Peermusic Classical: Arturo Marquez] Composer's Publisher and Bio
- http://www.artsalive.ca/en/mus/greatcomposers/marquez.html Arturo Márquez *http://www.ciberhabitat.gob.mx/conciertos/sarturomarquez.htm (same in Spanish)
- Making Of Danzón No. 2 on YouTube Interview about the making of a short film with his famous piece, in Spanish.