She started singing at age three and took up violin by age five. Russian violist Jascha Heifetz heard her play and helped her attain a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where she received a classical music education. In 1940 conductor Leopold Stokowski invited Waldo to join the newly formed All-American Youth Orchestra. They toured South America in 1940 and then North America in 1941 before disbanding when the U.S. entered World War II.
It was on these tours that Waldo's interest in musical archaeology grew and she began collecting pre-Columbian instruments. After the All-American Youth Orchestra, Waldo made her home in Southern California where she played as a first violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for one season. She returned to Latin America as a touring solo performer, playing in Panamá, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Cuba, and Mexico before taking up residence in Mexico City where she was a regular on the newly networked national radio. While living there, she collaborated frequently with singer ]Agustín Lara and appeared in the 1945 film Song of Mexico as a violinist. She also struck up a friendship with muralist Diego Rivera with whom she shared an interest in pre-Columbian and Maya music.
Rivera suggested that she develop her own system of hieroglyphic musical notation for working with pre-Columbian instruments in order to teach others how to play them. In 1954 and 55 Waldo played violin for the Peruvian-American soprano Yma Sumac. Sumac's music fused Andean folk songs with Caribbean rhythms, big band jazz and operatic singing, and her elaborate stage show fit the "exotic" tastes of patrons of venues in Hollywood and Las Vegas, while also meeting the standards of quality to appear in the most prestigious concert halls in North America and Europe. While displaying her talents as a soloist in the orchestra, Waldo regarded her work with Sumac's touring show as part of her research into Latin American music. Working with arrangers like Les Baxter and Billy May, Sumac helped define the music that would become known as exotica. Inspired by her time with Sumac, Waldo returned to Los Angeles and formed an ensemble that used instruments from Native North, South, and Meso-America to play her own original compositions. Waldo was among the first to bring many pre-Columbian instruments into a recording studio for her albums Maracatu (1959), Rites of the Pagan (1960) and Realm of the Incas (1961).
Although based on her research in indigenous music, the albums were unlike field recordings of Native American music produced by ethnomusicologists at the time: they were made in the studio using the most advanced high fidelity and stereo recording techniques and all of the compositions were Waldo's. Waldo began scoring film soundtracks in the early 1970s. During the 1980s she became interested in the music of China and formed an ensemble that helped introduce Chinese music and dance for the Los Angeles Unified School District. The group toured several times to China as part of a cultural exchange with several Chinese conservatories. While there, Waldo performed her "Concierto Indo-Americano" with the Xian Symphony Orchestra.
Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
show me more