A musical life: Carlos Prieto ’59 in conversation and concert

The acclaimed cellist, writer, and Course 3 alum discussed his new memoir and reflected on a remarkable musical career.
Categories: Alumni

World-renowned cellist Carlos Prieto ’59 returned to campus for an event to perform and to discuss his new memoir, “Mi Vida Musical.”

At the April 9 event in the Samberg Conference Center, Prieto spoke about his formative years at MIT and his subsequent career as a professional cellist. The talk was followed by performances of J.S. Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 3” and Eugenio “Toussaint’s Bachriation.” Valerie Chen, a 2022 Sudler Prize winner and Emerson/Harris Fellow, also performed Phillip Glass’s “Orbit.”

Prieto was born in Mexico City and began studying the cello when he was 4. He graduated from MIT with BS degrees in 1959 in Course 3, then called the Metallurgical Engineering and today Materials Science and Engineering, and in Course 14 (Economics). He was the first cello and soloist of the MIT Symphony Orchestra. While at MIT, he took all available courses in Russian, which allowed him, years later, to study at Lomonosov University in Moscow.

After graduation from MIT, Prieto returned to Mexico, where he rose to become the head of an integrated iron and steel company.

“When I returned to Mexico, I was very active in my business life, but I was also very active in my music life,” he told the audience. “And at one moment, the music overcame all the other activities and I left my business activities to devote all my time to the cello and I’ve been doing this for the past 50 years.”

During his musical career, Prieto played all over the world and has played and recorded the world premieres of 115 compositions, most of which were written for him. He is the author of 14 books, some of which have been translated into English, Russian, and Portuguese.

Prieto’s honors include the Order of the Arts and Letters from France, the Order of Civil Merit from the King of Spain, and the National Prize for Arts and Sciences from the president of Mexico. In 1993 he was appointed member of the MIT Music and Theater Advisory Committee. In 2014, the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences awarded Prieto the Robert A. Muh Alumni Award.