A Spanish guitarist and composer, Carlos Montoya made a lasting contribution to music between the 20s and 50s. He introduced the flamenco style of music as a serious form of guitar music. Traditionally flamenco music was used to accompany gypsy folk dancers and singers but Carlos Montoya changed it into a main genre of music.
Carlos Montoya was born into a gypsy family in Spain. His interest in music and the guitar began at an early age. He began studying the guitar with his mother and a neighboring barber, eventually learning from Pepe el Barbero, a guitarist and teacher. Not only was he interested in playing the guitar, Carlos Montoya wanted to learn the history of flamenco music. Flamenco music came out of the Moorish invasion of Spain. His uncle, Ramon Montoya, was a successful flamenco guitarist also. Carlos Montoya started playing professionally at the age of 14, playing for singers and dancers at the cafes in Madrid. Two of the dancers he most often played for were La Teresina and La Argentina.
Wanting to broaden his musical career, Carlos Montoya began touring in the 20s and 30s. His tours included performances in Europe, Asia and North America. He accompanied several performers including La Argentina again. He had finally made a name for himself as a flamenco guitarist.
When World War II broke out in the 1940s, Carlos Montoya was on tour in the United States with dancer La Argentinita. During the war he decided to settle in New York City and eventually became a United States citizen. In 1945 La Argentinita died but Carlos Montoya toured on his own, opening his repertoire to include not only flamenco but also blues, jazz and folk music.
His career took a different turn in 1948 when he began touring with symphonies and orchestras and performing his own guitar recitals. Carlos Montoya became the first flamenco guitarist to tour the world with symphonies and orchestras. His appearances did not stop there, he performed on television and gave several solo recitals. During his touring he recorded more than 40 albums, some with symphonies and orchestras. His albums include Flamenco Guitar and The Art of Flamenco. One of the most notable is Suite flamenco, a concerto he performed with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1966.
Carlos Montoya made a very important contribution to flamenco music, transforming it from a dance accompaniment to a style of its own. With his own style, he adapted it to other genres of music, all along making himself an international star. Carlos Montoya died at the age of 89 in Wainscott, NY.