William Ortiz Alvarado (b. Salinas, Puerto Rico) was raised in New York City. A member of that fascinating hybrid culture known as "Nuyorican", Ortiz composes music that often reflects the realities of urban life in New York.
After studying composition with Héctor Campos Parsi at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, he received his M.A. from SUNY at Stony Brook where his teachers were Billy Jim Layton and Bülent Arel. He was later granted the Ph.D. in Composition from SUNY at Buffalo, where he studied with Lejaren Hiller and Morton Feldman. Ortiz is currently professor of music and humanities at the University of Puerto Rico at Bayamón and was music critic for the San Juan Star.
Among his numerous commissions and awards is the 1995 Casals Festival Commission; the 1989 Music Prize from the Ateneo Puertorriqueño; participation in the 1981 ISCM World Music Days in Brussels and the 1980 Felipe Gutiérrez Espinosa Award. His works are published and recorded by A.M. Percussion Publications, Smith Publications, Opus One Records and New World Records. He was recently featured prominently in the German new music magazine Musiktexte, where two of his own articles: "Du-Wop and Dialectics" and "Musical Snobbism" were published along with a chronological list of works and the score of his Street Music for Flute, Trombone and Percussion.
Dr. Ortiz was Assistant Director of Black Mountain College II/SUNY Buffalo, where he also taught composition and music theory and was active in Latino community affairs, giving workshops and organizing concerts on behalf of Hispanic students in the United States.
Professor Carlos Gil has written:
"The music of William Ortiz could be called of urgency… the need to find his roots (we most remember Ortiz' New York background), and the need to create his own personal, particular and authentic form of artistic manifestation… Valiantly and decisively he has launched himself to make music. And this often painful industry has exercised its imminently artistic function: the miracle of the transformation of reality… If you would ask me for a concrete image of the musical work of William Ortiz I would have to say: the Nuyorican mural."
Uruguayan composer and musicologist Coriún Aharonián writes:
"Curiously there is a parallel current in his work, where a second personality seems to be fighting with this 'direct, urgent, free of academic pretensions music' according to a definition given by Kyle Gann… In any case, the weight of the 'other' stream is so important, that it remains as the principal one, and becomes the one that defines William Ortiz as one of the most interesting composers of the last decade in the Americas."
Historian María Rosa has stated:
"The music of William Ortiz affirms the artistic expression of cultural forms developed and created by 'Neoricans'. 'El Barrio' has served as an inspiration to Ortiz' diverse compositions as he brings together the astuteness of a university background and the message of the 'barrio' subculture. In a sense his compositions are an embodiment of an urban cultural heritage awakening and reaching out to embrace all humanity."
Ortiz makes the following statement on his music:
"I conceive of music as the 'violent beauty' of urban life; as the expression of the cries and shouts of the street - cries and shouts that reflect the thoughts of those who feel, of those who are oppressed. It is my intent to convert the language of the street into a legitimate instrument."