Rafael Petitón Guzman

The Rafael Petitón Guzmán Collection,  Composer, Pianist, Band Leader, Conductor, and Songwriter

Biographical Information: Musician Rafael Petitón Guzmán was born in Salcedo, Dominican Republic on January 29, 1894 and died in San Juan, Puerto Rico on December 14, 1983. He was a Juilliard-educated Dominican composer, pianist, percussionist and music teacher. He received his earliest musical training from his father, Edilio Petitón, an excellent amateur musician. Rafael Petitón Guzmán was the recipient of a Dominican government scholarship that sent him to Puerto Rico to further his music studies circa 1915-1918. He studied under music professors Julio de Arteaga and Ramón Morlá. Afterwards, he joined the original Rafael Muñoz Orchestra, a highly respected Puerto Rican band.  He moved to New York City in 1935 where he continued his studies at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music under the tutelage of famous composer Leopold Stokowski. Maestro Petitón settled in New York City in 1935 after traveling through numerous countries in Latin America, and formed Orquesta Lira Dominicana, one of the first Dominican-led band in the city and one of the first to introduce and popularize the merengue in the city's ballrooms. The band's great success earned maestro Petitón the title "merengue ambassador." During his career in New York City, maestro Petitón performed in some of the most famous venues of the era including Radio City Music Hall, the Stork Club and the Copacabana.  He focused his later years on teaching, musical arranging, and his own compositions. He died in 1983 in Puerto Rico but was interred, in accordance with his wishes, in his beloved Salcedo.

Scope and Contents Note: The Rafael Petitón Guzmán collection consists of over 1,861 music scores, song lyrics, sound recordings, personal documents, photographs, and memorabilia. It was donated to the Dominican Archives in 2007 by his daughter Angelina McKenna, and sons John and James Petitón.