Music 04

Carmen-Helena Tellez

September 25, 1955 ~ December 10, 2021 (age 66) 66 Years Old

Carmen-Helena Tellez Obituary

   SOUTH BEND - Carmen-Helena Téllez, born 25 September 1955, in Caracas, Venezuela, succumbed to cancer on December 10.  As a Venezuelan-American conductor and scholar she had been called “a quiet force behind contemporary music in the United States today” by the New York-based journal Sequenza21. A multifaceted artist, she took a co-creative approach to new music performance, devoting special attention to vocal-instrumental and staged genres. The Washington Post has called this approach, involving interdisciplinary media and musical scholarship, "immersing and thrilling." She earned a Doctor of Music degree in 1989 from Indiana University, and was the winner of the ACDA Julius Herford National Choral Dissertation Award (1991). She pioneered new modes of classical music presentation, through the exploration of the relationship of music with other arts and technology. She delved into the work of underrepresented composers, especially women and Latin American artists, with her performances of contemporary music for chorus, orchestra, and opera. She advocated for the reconsideration of the concept of art music, and she proposed the co-creative role of the listener in the value of music as art.  She also composed new music, as her inter-artistic projects required. Her most recent composition, A Dance for Seurat, will be premiered by the South Bend Symphony Orchestra on January 9, 2022, at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Notre Dame.

   She conducted in the United States, Europe, Israel and Latin America. After her tenure as Music Director of the National Chorus of Spain, she joined the music faculty at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 1992, as Director of the Latin American Music Center and the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble. For these organizations, she commissioned and recorded several new works, produced 14 CDs of Latin American music, and organized several Inter-American Composition Workshops. During the 2001-2002 period, she was the Resident Conductor of the pioneering Contemporary Chamber Players of Chicago and became the Music Director of the Pocket Opera Players in New York City. In 2012, she was appointed Professor of Conducting at the University of Notre Dame, where she founded the doctoral program in and led a series of musical works with new modes of interdisciplinary presentation. She was known as a conductor of new music, even as she continued to conduct canonic repertoire. She is the first woman on record to conduct Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts (Indiana University, 2000). She truly believed that “art reveals the face of God.”

   She is preceded in death by her mother, Auristela Valle; and is survived by her father, Dr. Ramón Téllez; her sisters, Maigualida Tellez, Tibisay Tellez (Eduardo Carpio); and her brother, Rhadames Tellez (Alba Azacon); several nieces (Andreina Rangel, Valentina Carpio, Maria Elena Carpio and Alexandra Téllez); and two nephews (Carlos Eduardo Rangel and Andres Eduardo Téllez). She leaves behind countless friends.

   In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Latin American Music Center, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Palmer Funeral Home – Hickey Chapel is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences may be expressed to the family at

   A memorial concert will take place at Our Lady of Loretto Church at Saint Mary’s College on March 4, 2022.

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