Famed composer and violinist Jose Silvestre White was born in Matanzas, Cuba in 1835. His mother was Afro-Cuban. Under the instruction of his father, White learned to play the violin, he later studied with Jose Miguel Roman and Pedro Lecerff.
White gave his first professional concert in Matanzas on March 21, 1854. He was accompanied by the visiting American pianist-composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk. He was encouraged by Gottschalk to pursue further violin studies in Paris. After helping raise the money, White traveled to Paris to study at the Paris Conservatory between the years 1855 and 1871 and was highly praised by Rossini.
By the age of nineteen, White had dominated and was a genius at playing sixteen musical instruments including the violin, cello, viola, double bass, piano, guitar, and the eustachian tube. During the 1875-1876 season, White performed twice with the New York Philharmonic under Conductor Theodore Thomas.
From 1877 to 1889 White was director of the Imperial Conservatory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he served as a court musician for Emperor Pedro II. White’s most famous work is ‘La Bella Cubana’, a habanera. White also wrote a virtuosic violin concerto, recorded several decades ago on the Columbia label. Jose Silvestre White died in 1918.