Musician Raphael Baez One Of First Mexicans To Call Milwaukee Home


By Erika Janik | June 15, 2016

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Raphael Baez was one of the first Mexicans to call Milwaukee home. Trained as a classical musician in Mexico, Baez was recruited to come to the United States by the C.D. Hess Opera Company in the 1880s. 

Baez eventually settled in Milwaukee where he became a successful organist for a number of Milwaukee churches and then a professor of music at Marquette University. He was the school’s first Mexican professor and quickly became a respected teacher. 

Milwaukee was a vibrant musical city in the late 19th century. German immigrants brought their deep passion for music with them to the United States, and established musical societies and supported a variety of performances throughout Milwaukee. The city’s rich cultural heritage earned it the title of the “German Athens” or the “Athens of the West.” 

Baez and his wife, a noted vocalist, often performed together in various music halls throughout Milwaukee. The Athenaeum hosted Baez and his students many times, advertising its concerts with posters like the one in the above image. 

Baez passed away in 1930 after an illustrious musical career. 

Learn more about Baez at Wisconsin 101, a statewide collaborative effort to explore Wisconsin’s diverse story through objects. 

The Baez music used in this story comes from the Baez Family collection at the Milwaukee County Historical Society. Thanks to pianist Deb Allen Schultz for playing Baez’s song, “The Shephardess’ Lullaby.” 

Erika Janik

Erika Janik spins multiple “Wisconsin Life”-related plates as she acquires, edits, records, and mixes radio stories for broadcast — all while searching for new roadside attractions, hiking trails  and local beer to explore.  She is the author of five books including “Apple: A Global History“, and most recently “Marketplace of the Marvelous:...
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