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Moacir Santos: Music in His Blood

By Published: July 23, 2004
As Moacir grew, he left home and found work as a saxophonist, arriving in Rio at the age of 22. He eventually became a conductor and worked for Brazil's R'dio Nacional, which he compared to BBC radio in London, arranging music for live programs, his days there running from 10 in the morning until 10 at night. He was involved in musical studies, as well as various other musical settings over the years, releasing Coisas in 1965. Two years later, he moved to the U.S. and got involved in writing for films. Much of the film work was ghost writing, he says, but he did get credit on 1985's "Final Justice."

But before that time, he taught music to many from his homeland who went on to become famous, particularly during the bossa nova craze "when it appeared 20, 30 years ago," he says. "Everyone in the city of Rio de Janeiro wants to study with Moacir," says Santos, "even some who could never study with him." The most notable icon of bossa nova did not study with Santos, he admits. But there was a long, friendly association between Moacir and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

"Jobim was a very good friend of mine" who called on Santos for counseling about an album he was doing when the two were in Los Angeles. Moacir recalls Jobim asking about the album Maestro , which was Grammy nominated. "We were very close friends. He was very close to me' He would come by my home and drink and talk about the music, but I never taught Jobim."

Santos taught music, in addition to his composing and movie work, for a long time in California. In 1996, he was decorated by the President of the Republic of Brazil with the prestigious Oficial da Ordem do Rio Branco honor. These days are quieter for he and his wife, Cleonice. But in March, he was able to attend a performance of the Ouro Negro music at a jazz festival in Brazil.

"I was born with this music. I think if I don't live music'" he says, his voice trailing off. Then he adds, "Any time we talk, my wife says 'You are thinking about music again.' I am always thinking about music."

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