The Argentinean pianist, Miguel Ángel Estrella, was born in the province of Tucumán. The name of his paternal grandfather was Nashem (English Najem, which means ‘Estrella’ (Spanish) 'Star' (English) in Arabic). When his immigrant grandparents came to Argentina, the Immigration official asked his name and his grandfather simply noted the sky several times, without saying a word. The official hesitated a few seconds and then ordered: "Put it Estrella”. Miguel Angel Estrella began playing the piano at the age of 12 in his hometown, San Miguel de Tucumán. He completed his secondary education at the Gymnasium of the UNT. From age 18 he studied at the Conservatorio Nacional (National Conservatory) of Buenos Aires. Later he studied in Paris (France) where he was a pupil of Marguerite Long and Nadia Boulanger, among others.
Miguel Ángel Estrella’s humanist beliefs led him to invest himself early in his life for the poor and the humble. Again in Argentina, the Argentinean military junta forced him into exile in 1976. He was imprisoned in Uruguay and tortured in 1977. A large campaign for solidarity was developed thanks to the attachment of numerous music-lovers to the values of Human Rights, including hundreds of musicians from all over the world, led by Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Yehudi Menuhin, Nadia Boulanger and Henri Dutilleux, among others. He became the symbol of liberty of all artists and intellectuals of Latin America. After his release from prison, he was granted political asylum and the French nationality. He also actively campaigned for human rights and the dissemination of music as an instrument of defence of human dignity and elevation of the human condition. For this purpose, he founded on December 10, 1982 the international movement "Musique Esperance" (Music Hope). This foundation aims to improve access to music for all persons including the most isolated, bringing music into schools, hospitals, prisons, city quarters, suburbs, and rural regions in countries throughout the world. In 2000, he created the Orchestra for Peace, an ensemble composed of young Arab and Israeli musicians united by music and impassioned with the hope of progressing along the road to peace.
As an unconventional artist with a strong sense of social awareness he was against the commercial use of music and the spirit of competition that pitted artists against each other. Through his Music and Hope team, he was the creative force behind numerous programs, particularly in South America. Examples of his efforts include the drive to increase literacy in the prisons of Argentina, the creation of a training center for social worker musicians, and the establishment of a friendship house in a Buenos Aires slum. He has also developed the program “A Voice for Those Without a Voice”, which seeks to promote talented musicians who bring rich traditions from distant cultures often ignored by conventional commercial pathways.
Besides his career as an internationally renowned classical pianist, Miguel Ángel Estrella teaches courses since 1981 on musical analysis, musical performance, chamber music and the evolution of musical language from J.S. Bach to Gabriel Fauré. Since 2007, he is the Argentine ambassador to UNESCO and, from 2010, deals with cultural news columns in the Country Study Bicentennial program, broadcast on Public TV.
His musical talent as a pianist was exhibited in a recital of romantic works; this performance was noticed by Jacques Longchampt, a well-known French musical critic. Longchampt notes: "Miguel Angel Estrella is thoroughly engaged when playing these pages of transcendental virtuosity… He was at the height of his talents, which is all the more remarkable when one considers the extremely heavy responsibilities he bears as Argentina’s ambassador to UNESCO, as well as his preoccupation with serving others".
Miguel Ángel Estrella is Former President of "The International Federation of Music for Hope" which has member associations coming in 11 countries. The French government honoured him with the appointment of Knight of the Legion of Honour. The Universidad Nacional (National University) of Tucumán awarded him an honorary doctorate at the request of a draft submitted by the Student Council Fernando Korstanje in 1988. He is Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and Doctor Honoris Causa of several universities in Europe and USA. He is also a member of "France-Libertés" Association founded by Mrs Danielle Mitterrand.
In 2010 premiered the film El Piano Mudo, under the direction of Jorge Zuhair Jury, based on the life of Miguel Ángel