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Jaime Mendoza-Nava, 79; Used Classical Training, Bolivian Roots in Composing for TV and Film

June 16, 2005|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Jaime Mendoza-Nava, a classically trained musician who composed for such diverse projects as Walt Disney's "The Mickey Mouse Club," the cartoon series "Mr. Magoo" and B films made by director Ed Wood, has died. He was 79.

Mendoza-Nava died May 31 at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Woodland Hills of complications of diabetes.

Born in La Paz, Bolivia, to a lawyer father and the city's first female mayor, Mendoza-Nava was a child prodigy who by age 11 had composed, performed and organized a children's orchestra. After studying in South America, he trained in piano and composing at New York's Juilliard School, and later at Madrid's Royal Conservatory of Music and elsewhere in Europe.

In 1950, he earned the prestigious Spanish Prize for completing the Madrid conservatory's five-year doctoral program in a single year and for his symphonic poem "Don Alvaro."

The following year, still in his 20s, Mendoza-Nava was named director of Bolivia's National Symphony Orchestra.

He was credited during his brief tenure for increasing the orchestra's professional standing, championing Bolivian music -- including native Andean pentatonic rhythms -- and opening the orchestra to Jewish refugees from World War II and indigenous Aymara and Quechua Indian musicians.

Mendoza-Nava immigrated to Los Angeles in 1953 and soon went to work for Disney, where he composed music for 1950s television series including "The Mickey Mouse Club" and "Zorro."

In 1961, he became music director for United Productions of America, where he worked on the theatrical cartoon series "Mr. Magoo," among others.

After launching his own company, Mendoza-Nava scored music for more than 200 motion pictures, including sci-fi, horror and adventure films, many directed by Wood or Charles B. Pierce.

Among the composer's credits were "Ballad of a Gunfighter" in 1964, "A Boy and His Dog" (also called "Psycho Boy and His Killer Dog") in 1975, "The Vampire Hookers" in 1978 and "Terror in the Swamp" in 1985.

Mendoza-Nava is survived by his wife, Billie; four children, Jaime, Chrys, Rene and Victoria; two brothers, Vicente and Rene; and four grandchildren.

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