Meet our Founder and Artistic Director

Juan R. Ramírez-Hernández, violinist/ composer/ conductor and founder of the Atlanta Virtuosi Foundation, Inc. began his studies in Mexico with Ivo Valenti and Vladimir Vulfman. His studies with Henryk Szeryng began at the age of fourteen, and continued as he became his principal mentor in Mexico, the U.S. and Europe. While in Boston attending the New England Conservatory of Music, Mr. Ramírez was privileged to study with Joseph Silverstein. In the symphony orchestra, he has played under Leonard Bernstein, Eric Leinsdorf, Colin Davis, William Steinberg, Leon Barzin, Bruno Maderna, Gunther Schuller, Seiji Ozawa, and many others. Service in the Boston and Pittsburgh Symphonies preceded his 1974 acceptance of a permanent position with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. 

Prior to his residence in the United States, Mr. Ramírez toured Israel, Europe and Asia with the Ballet Folklórico of Mexico, and was a member of the Xalapa Symphony, National University Symphony, the Opera Orchestra and the National Symphony of Mexico. 

While under the tutelage of the eminent pedagogue and conductor, Leon Barzin, Mr. Ramírez was the recipient of both the Serge Koussevitsky and Leonard Bernstein Awards, and a prize-winning violinist at the Berkshire Music Festival. The distinguished composer-conductor Gunther Schuller says of Ramírez: “I have unqualified faith in Mr. Ramírez as a violinist and a musical leader of great artistic integrity ...Whatever he undertakes is touched by quality...”  

Mr. Ramírez plays a number of instruments, including the guitar, mandolin and marimba, and as a composer is noted for his compositions and arrangements commissioned by the Hispanic Festival of the Arts. Influenced by his native land, Ramírez’ “Suite Huasteca” for violin, strings, and guitar, received critical acclaim in both the U.S. and in Mexico, and in 2008 received its European premiere in Spain. He has also written numerous articles in the field of ethno-musicology. His compositions include “Anahuac” for tenor, soprano, winds, strings, guitar, harpsichord and pre-Colombian percussion, commissioned in 1993 by the ACOG – Cultural Olympiad as part of ¡MEXICO! A Cultural Tapestry, “Suite Criolla” for chorus, narrator and orchestra, with tenor and soprano solo, premiered in 1995 at the Hispanic Festival of the Arts, and “Navidad Hispana” for solo guitar and orchestra, premiered by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with Juan Ramírez, guitar soloist. Ramírez’ string quartet “Suite Latina” was commissioned and world premiered by the Amelia Chamber Music Festival in 2001 and has been performed throughout the United States and in Europe. 

Mr. Ramírez has been a member of the faculties of Georgia State University and Spelman College, and has participated in music panels for DeKalb Council for the Arts, the Fulton County Arts Council, Bureau of Cultural Affairs, City of Atlanta, Georgia Council for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts International – The Fund for U.S. Artists at International Festivals and Exhibitions, and the U.S. Information Agency - Arts America Program. He was a member of the Cultural Olympiad Advisory Council, and served on the advisory boards of both the New World Symphony and the Chicago Civic Symphony Orchestra.   He is the founder of the Hispanic Festival of the Arts,  and Casa de la Cultura de Atlanta. Mr. Ramírez serves on the Advisory Board of Directors of CURE Childhood Cancer, the  Sphinx  Organization  Advisory  Board, and the Music Steering Committee of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum.  A frequent panelist and clinician, he has served on the Classical Nominations Review Committee for the Grammy Awards of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica, California. He is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta, Class of 1999. 

Mr. Ramírez founded the Buckhead Youth Orchestra in 2000, and serves as Artistic Director and Conductor. Since 1999, he has also served as Music Director and Conductor of the Atlanta Community Symphony Orchestra. From 2005 to 2008 he was Artist Affiliate Instructor of Strings at Reinhardt College and Founder and Director of the Reinhardt Symphony Orchestra. Since 2003, Mr. Ramírez has served as Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and continues to serve as concertmaster or juror for the annual Sphinx Competition. As a music advocator and educator, Mr. Ramírez founded a new music program for young children. Under the auspices of the Atlanta Virtuosi Foundation, Inc. Music for Success! is an educational program in partnership with metro Atlanta educational institutions to encourage and support artistic creativity for young elementary and middle school children of many backgrounds, and offers instrumental and orchestral string training by professional musicians. 

In January 2004, Mr. Ramírez was named  Lexus Leader of the Arts by WABE Public Radio of Atlanta and WPBA Television for “his outstanding contributions, his pursuit of excellence in music and for his initiating and serving several community music organizations in the arts community”. Mr. Ramírez was nominated and awarded the 2006 Governor’s Award in the Humanities in recognition of “exemplary achievements that fostered an understanding of cultural traditions and values for strengthened community, character, and citizenship in the state of Georgia.” This year the University of Michigan named him “Presidential Professor”, the highest honor given to visiting artists and scholars, recognizing distinguished individuals for their extraordinary achievements.  In February, 2009, Mr. Ramírez received the prestigious Loridans Arts Award, given to “accomplished artists who create and perform with distinction and have made exceptional contributions to the arts life of Atlanta.”  Mr. Ramirez has served on the Board of Directors of the Sphinx Organization and the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art. Most recently he was named a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Community Engagement Council, and “New Harmonies 2012” of the Smithsonian Institute.