Biography of Maria Jesús

María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro was born in León (Spain) on 12 September 1936. She came from a wealthy family, her father being a civil servant. She was the second of five children, and her paternal grandfather, Mauro Casado, always treated her as his favorite and played a very influential and decisive role in her musical education. He was one of the founders of the Instituto Nacional de Previsión (National Welfare Institute) in León, later known as the National Social Security Institute, and was considered to be a very important and powerful person in the city. María Jesús says that her grandfather inspired her love for music.

Fig. 1. María Jesús with her mother - Fig. nº 1. María Jesús con su madre
Fig. 1. María Jesús with her mother - Fig. nº 1. María Jesús con su madre
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro.

Mauro Casado was an avid music lover. According to María Jesús, her grandfather played the piano, often took her to concerts, and he attended all kinds of musical events in the city. At that time, the concerts in León took place in the Casino, one of the city's main cultural and recreational institutions, where she had the opportunity of meeting many artists, orchestras, etc.

Fig. 2. María Jesús with her brother and grandfather, Mauro Casado - Fig. nº 2. María Jesús con su hermano y su abuelo, Mauro Casado
Fig. 2. María Jesús with her brother and grandfather, Mauro Casado - Fig. nº 2. María Jesús con su hermano y su abuelo, Mauro Casado
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro.

During the 1940s as a young child, she was introduced to music for the very first time. Her grandfather aroused her great love for music, especially piano. He had a piano that he played as an amateur since he had always been fascinated by this instrument and by music in general. Musical soirées were common at the family home. They took place whenever there was some kind of family celebration. On those days, when dinner was over, everyone went to the piano room (as it was called at that time) at her grandfather's home and played, sang, and spent a pleasant evening. Unfortunately, Mauro Casado became totally deaf in the later years of his life, but even so, he whispered in his granddaughter's ear: "I'm listening to a symphony."

Fig. 3. María Jesús in her grandmother’s arms - Fig. nº 3. María Jesús en brazos de su abuela
Fig. 3. María Jesús in her grandmother’s arms - Fig. nº 3. María Jesús en brazos de su abuela
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro

María Jesús showed her musical skills from a very young age. In her family, she was the one with the most fondness for music and also the most gifted, as she had inherited her love for it from her music-loving grandfather. She remembers that when she was very young, her family gave her a small “toy” piano because of her attraction to the instrument. Her interest in the instrument soon started to grow. María Jesús took piano lessons and completed primary school in León, a nun's school there. Young María Jesús began her first music lessons at age seven with her aunts on her father's side because both had also studied music to some extent. One of them, who was a nun, was her first piano teacher. The other aunt had a good voice and would have liked to be a professional singer. They saw that she was very eager to learn and made a lot of progress. After a few years, she went to the Conservatory of Music of Valladolid to take the exams and enrolled as an external (free) student when she was 11 years old. The girls from León were very well prepared musically. María Jesús is still very proud that they were repeatedly congratulated by the teachers in Valladolid when they arrived for their exams.

Fig. 4. First accreditation card of the Elementary Conservatory of Music of Valladolid - Fig. nº 4. Primer carnet del Conservatorio Elemental de Música y Declamación de Valladolid
Fig. 4. First accreditation card of the Elementary Conservatory of Music of Valladolid - Fig. nº 4. Primer carnet del Conservatorio Elemental de Música y Declamación de Valladolid
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro
Fig. 5. First accreditation paper of the Conservatory of Valladolid about her right to take the entrance exam as a student - Fig. nº 5. Primera papeleta del Conservatorio de Valladolid de sus derechos a realizar el examen de ingreso como estudiante
Fig. 5. First accreditation paper of the Conservatory of Valladolid about her right to take the entrance exam as a student - Fig. nº 5. Primera papeleta del Conservatorio de Valladolid de sus derechos a realizar el examen de ingreso como estudiante
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro

She started with solfège for the first and second years, and during the third year, she combined it with first-year piano. During her first years of piano lessons, María Jesús studied in the school's piano room. When she started fourth-year piano, the teacher told her parents that María Jesús had to study much more if she wanted to carry on playing the instrument. Thus, she had to have a piano at home and stopped using the school study rooms.

Fig. 6. Record of the 1st year of Piano as an external student. Conservatory of Valladolid - Fig. nº 6. Papeleta del Conservatorio de Valladolid de su 1º año de Piano. Estudiante libre
Fig. 6. Record of the 1st year of Piano as an external student. Conservatory of Valladolid - Fig. nº 6. Papeleta del Conservatorio de Valladolid de su 1º año de Piano. Estudiante libre
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro
Fig. 7. Record of the Conservatory of Valladolid, 4th year of Piano as an external student - Fig. nº 7.  Papeleta del Conservatorio de Valladolid de su 4º año de Piano. Estudiante libre
Fig. 7. Record of the Conservatory of Valladolid, 4th year of Piano as an external student - Fig. nº 7. Papeleta del Conservatorio de Valladolid de su 4º año de Piano. Estudiante libre
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro

Her musical career was encouraged from the very beginning to such an extent that they decided to give priority to her music studies over her high school diploma, which she regrets to this day. She studied for five years in Valladolid (elementary level), and then another five years in Bilbao (upper level). The upper level could only be taken in Bilbao or Madrid, and her mother decided that she should study in Bilbao because she wanted to get to know the city.

Fig. 8. Records of Bilbao’s Conservatory - Fig. nº 8. Papeletas del Conservatorio de Bilbao
Fig. 8. Records of Bilbao’s Conservatory - Fig. nº 8. Papeletas del Conservatorio de Bilbao
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro
Fig. 9. Records of Chamber Music - Fig. nº 9. Papeleta de Música de Cámara
Fig. 9. Records of Chamber Music - Fig. nº 9. Papeleta de Música de Cámara
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro
Fig. 10. Records of Harmony - Fig. nº 10. Papeleta de Armonía
Fig. 10. Records of Harmony - Fig. nº 10. Papeleta de Armonía
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro
Fig. 11. Aesthetics and History of Music records - Fig. nº 11. Papeletas de Estética e Historia de la Música
Fig. 11. Aesthetics and History of Music records - Fig. nº 11. Papeletas de Estética e Historia de la Música
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro

The story of María Jesús's piano/pianola begins when she is fourteen. Some old friends of her parents had only one child (with whom they lost contact) and only a few other remaining family members. It was as if the friends were "part of our family" according to María Jesús. Their friend Eloy Mateos was already very old when María Jesús was a child and kindly offered a magnificent piano/pianola and an interesting collection of rolls to her. The piano/pianola was moved from Gijón to her house in León. Unforgettable moments were spent playing the piano at María Jesús's house, and she still remembers intriguing tales that she wanted to share with us about her instrument.[1]

Fig. 12. A unique photograph of Maria Jesús sitting at the piano/pianola - Fig. nº 12. Única fotografía hallada de María Jesús sentada al piano/pianola
Fig. 12. A unique photograph of Maria Jesús sitting at the piano/pianola - Fig. nº 12. Única fotografía hallada de María Jesús sentada al piano/pianola
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro

This is how the pianola arrived at her house in León. From the very moment the pianola arrived in León until her piano career ended at 18 (with very good grades), María Jesús did not stop progressing on the instrument. She had a strict piano teacher until the end. After completing her studies, her mother insisted that she should find a job and even work as a music teacher because, at that time and especially in provinces, women usually stayed at home doing the housework, looked for a good match, and then got married. Men were the ones who went to university, but at least María Jesús had the advantage of having studied piano. Her sisters did not study anything, and no one pressured them to do anything. She was lucky enough to have studied something for which she felt a great passion despite the fact that she did not make a professional career out of it. A few years after finishing piano studies, she got married.

Fig. 13. María Jesús, eighteen years - Fig. nº 13. María Jesús con 18 años
Fig. 13. María Jesús, eighteen years - Fig. nº 13. María Jesús con 18 años
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro
Fig. 14. María Jesús, 23 years - Fig. nº 14. María Jesús con 23 años
Fig. 14. María Jesús, 23 years - Fig. nº 14. María Jesús con 23 años
Courtesy of María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro

So, María Jesús never got to start a professional career as a pianist, although she was offered a job as a piano teacher in one of the schools where she had studied as a child. She and another colleague were candidates for a piano teacher's position, but at the time of the final decision, the nun explained that her colleague needed the position because the young woman had recently lost her father and the salary was essential at home. Without further discussion, her contender got the piano teacher position, which she actually deserved, because she was a better pianist than María Jesús. María Jesús did not look for any other job. León was a small town where job opportunities were very scarce.

In 1962, at 26, María Jesús married Pedro Bujidos in León. He was also from León, worked at the Treasury, and sat for the Auditor's exams. After passing them, they moved to live in Burgos, although they could have stayed in their home town. They preferred to leave and make a fresh start but close to their families and their parents. At that time, her mother had already told her to take the piano with her from the family home, but she did not want to, or it was not convenient, partly because it was large and also because somehow that meant "breaking" to some extent with the family's past. Now she regrets that decision.

María Jesús's mother loved modern artifacts, modern life, modern clothes, etc. and often redecorated the house, so the piano/pianola was soon discarded. According to María Jesús, any old object was unnecessary, and her mother did not give much thought to the instrument that her daughter once used to study and build her musical career.

María Jesús does not know the origin of the pianola. In 1940s Spain, just after the civil war, everything was scarce and expensive. Having something like that was inconceivable for any middle-class person. The most basic goods were already expensive not to mention luxury items such as the instrument and the rolls. The doctor who owned the instrument was a very well-off man who could surely afford a luxury and a whim like this and who did not feel any remorse in parting with it when his friend's daughter needed a piano to progress with her musical career.

Eloy Mateos, the donor of the piano/pianola and the entire collection of rolls, had been a doctor in La Vecilla (León). Such was the friendship and affinity between the families that they lent them their village house for holidays in the summer. Dr. Mateos bought everything for the pianola in the city of Oviedo. That was why many of the rolls have labels from Oviedo, and more specifically from "Casa Tuero,” a piano/pianola/organ and upholstery store. This store was located at Cimadevilla 19, [2] the main street of Gijón, the town where he lived, a very small place with very few stores at that time few refinements.

Fig. 15. Picture of  Casa Tuero building - Fig. nº 15. Edificio de Casa Tuero
Fig. 15. Picture of Casa Tuero building - Fig. nº 15. Edificio de Casa Tuero
Picture taken from - Fotografía tomada de http://arquitecturadeoviedo.blogspot.com/2013/03/blog-post

We know that many years after María Jesús left León, the tuner who went to her old home every year to tune the piano convinced her mother to remove the pianola from the instrument because the piano would sound better, and her daughter would enjoy it more on her return. At least that was the reason he gave so that he could dismantle the pianola. The piano was sold later, perhaps in 1964. The exact date is unknown.

Fortunately, the collection of rolls was kept in the storeroom of the family home. However, some of them got wet or spoiled and were thrown away due to poor condition, which explains the poor condition of some of the boxes of the remaining rolls. Luckily, the humidity and the conditions of the storeroom just affected the boxes and covers of some of these rolls and not their contents.

Although the pianola disappeared many years earlier, the collection of rolls was picked up from the family home in León when her parents died in 1986. She brought it to her home in Madrid intact, carefully cleaning and keeping them in her house for another 30 years. Obviously, she did not purchase any more rolls after that re-encounter with her family history and with her history as a pianist and "pianolist.” She searched for pianolas for some time in antique dealers and other similar establishments. In the 1990s, these were very difficult to find, and the ones she found were very expensive. She never lost hope of being able to listen to her rolls again. Perhaps that was why she kept them and looked after them with such care and affection for so sixty-six years. It would never have crossed her mind to think about what the final destination of her collection would be and if these copies would be played again.

María Jesús and her children thought of selling the collection, but they did not know where or to whom. They were unaware of the enormous interest that institutions such as the National Library of Spain have in private collections such as this since the National Library has acquired many private collections, some donated and others purchased. Other music archives or specialized documentation centers have also picked up similar collections, but this did not even occur to them.

Then, in 2015, María Bujidos Casado (María Jesús's daughter) saw the head of the Stanford University Music Library on Spanish television promoting the “Piano Roll Project.” They contacted the University authorities to offer their collection, and Stanford did not hesitate. Stanford University saw it as unique and different compared to other items in its collections, and it was donated with the sole intention of ensuring its preservation for future music research.

Today the Casado García-Sampedro family is very pleased to have donated their collection of pianola rolls to Stanford University. They are convinced that it is a good place for the collection to be, where it will be well preserved and available to be used in research

Fig. 16. María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro and Esther Burgos-Bordonau
Fig. 16. María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro and Esther Burgos-Bordonau
Photograph of Esther Burgos-Bordonau ©

(Based on an interview conducted on 18 November 2018 in Madrid with María Jesús Casado García-Sampedro and María Bujidos Casado).


[1] María Jesús told us an intriguing and interesting tale about the “La Marseillaise” roll. Her father let her play all of the rolls except the French anthem. This is the late 1940s and early 1950s, and her father did not want to contribute to a revolution by playing the French anthem. They had already been through enough with the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). She was born in the very year the civil war broke out in Spain. The post-war period in which she lived was not suitable for doing practically anything, but especially not for playing (from her father's point of view) revolutionary hymns on the pianola.

[2] Picture of the building taken from http://arquitecturadeoviedo.blogspot.com/2013/03/blog-post.html [online. Access 12 August 2019]