Manuel Maria Ponce was born in Zacatecas, Mexico in 1882. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Augascalientes, where Ponce always considered home. A musically precocious child, he composed his first piece at the age of 5 while recuperating from small pox. By the time he was 22, Ponce had been a church organist, piano teacher and press critic. After briefly studying at the National Conservatory in Mexico City, he sold his piano and sailed for Europe to study in Bologna and Berlin.
Four years later in 1908, Ponce was forced to return to Mexico for financial reasons. He loves the folk melodies of his native country and fought off prejudices that existed against "indigenous" music to become Mexico's first nationalistic composer. In 1912 he wrote the song "Estrellita" which became popular throughout the world. A year later he met his future wife, Clementine, a singer of French extraction. Ponce moved to Cuba for a short time. While there he composed many pieces incorporating native rhythms and melodies and all romantic in nature. In 1917 he returned to Mexico and married Clema. Around this time he became director of the National Symphony Orchestra.
In 1923 Ponce met guitarist Andres Segovia who was on tour in Mexico. Segovia asked him to write for the guitar since at the time there was little music for the classical guitar. Ponce readily obliged and wrote" Sonata Mexicana". Not only had Segovia discovered the most important composer for the guitar in the 20th century, but also a friendship that would lastÂ the rest of their lives. Ponce went to France to study with Paul Dukas. Among his classmates were Joaquin Rodrigo and Heitor Villa-Lobos.. These were very formative years in his career. Highly influenced by French Impressionism music, he incorporated this into his already romantic and nationalistic style.
Dukas was so impressed with Ponce's compositions that he gave him a score of 30 out of a possible 10 at the end of his course! He returned to his country in 1933 and became director of the National Conservatory the following year. In the last decade of his life, Ponce was honored with decorations and medals. Unfortunately, he was plagued with illness and died of an uremia attack on April 24, 1948. A year later the conference hall at the distinguished Palacio de Bellas Artes was named " Sala Manuel M. Ponce".