Child Musical Prodigies: Pepito Arriola (1896-19??)

Figure 1.--Pepito Arriola was a Spanish child musical prodigy. He was playing the piano and composing his own music at age 3. He is pictured here at about 12-13 years of age, probably in 1908-09. This post card was dated September 1910, so we know the actual photograph was taken some time before that.

Pepito Arriola was a well-known Spanish child musical prodigy--Pepito Arriola. When only 2 1/2 years old his suprised mother found him merrily playing at the piano a piece she had been playing. He had received no musical instruction, he had just listened and watch how she played. He was playing the piano and composing his own music at age 3. He also became a master violinist. When we began researching Arriola we could not find any information on him. Thanks to the ever expanding internet, there is now some information avilable on him.


"Pepito" is the diminutive form of Pepe, which is a form of "José", which means Joseph in English. I believe that the family name Arriola is of Basque origin.


Pepito's mother was an artistic woman who played the piano.


We have little information on Pepitos childhood other than he grew up in Spain. He was born to a liberal family named Ferrol. His mother was Josefa Rodríguez Carballeira. His father was not identifid. So on his birth certificate has the family name of his mother, which she never used. It was Pedrito's grandfather's name. Music filled the home which had already begun to affect Pedrito when Josefa went to Madrid while the boy was still very young. His aunt Aurora took care of him and taught him how to play piano, although Pedrito taught himslf to a considerable extent.

Child Prodigy

We at first did not know who Pepito Arriola was. We now know that he was a child musical prodigy. We find a web reference to "the precocious artist Pepito Arriola", but no details. Another brief note indicated that he was a child piano prodigy. Pepito grew in a musical family. The family made no spcial efor to interest the boy in music. Then syddemly they began to realize what a talent they had. Pepito's mother expalins when she first noted his musical talent. One report indicated that at the International Congress of Psychology at Paris in August 21, 1900, a Ch. Richet, Academy of Medicine, presented to a general assembly, a 3 1/2 year old Spanish boy named Pepito Arriola who played and improvised piece of varied airs with very rich sonority on the piano. [Voir Revue Scientifique] This was the beginning of a very impressive musical career.


The boy's outfit looks rather French. The first images show him still wearing dresses. WE also see him wearing bloomer knickers and knee pants with socks rathervthan long stockings. We have noted French boys wearing these bloomer knicker and knee pants suits suits at various lengths. This one appears to be a sailor suit and the knickers are bloused below the knee (figure 1). He appaers to be wearing shoes of leather and white canvas with white socks. He wears his hair longer than was common at the time. WE are not sure if this was to give him a youthful or artistic image--perhaps both.

Adult Career

Reader Comment

A Spanish reader writes, "Es mas o menos la misma que me mandas, no se si la habras visto. Estoy pendiente de que llegue una revista antigua llamada ¨La Esfera¨ donde viene una entrevista con Pepito. De momento lo unico que sabia es que fue hijo de soltera, la madre se llamaba Josefa Rodriguez Carballeira, su madre lo dejo al cuidado de una tia en ferrol para irse a Madrid y esa tía fue la que lo ayudo en su carrera de pianista pero paso el tiempo y su madre lo reclamo, se fue a Madrid y ahi se pierde la pista. Su padrastro creo que fue un importante hombre asturiano o cantabro, un aventurero que acompaño a Pepito en sus conciertos por el mundo. De momento eso es lo que he averiguado, muy poco la verdad aunque ire ampliando. Un librero de aqui de ferrol dice que la historia de Pepito se ha ocultado porque hay cosas turbias en su vida como el asesinato de su prima (que tambien tocaba el piano) por su tia." This translates as, "It is the same as you sent me. I am not sure what you have seen. I am awaiting the receipt of an old magazine called "La Esfera¨ which has an interview with Pepito. At the moment, all that I know is that he was son of a single person, the mother was named Josefa Rodriguez Carballeira, his mother left him om the care of an aunt in [?ferrol] to go away to Madrid and that aunt was the one who helped him in his piano career and some time passed before his mothr reclainmed him. She went to Madrid and there lost contact. His [?padrastro] I believe was an important Asturian man or [?cantabro], an adventurer who accompanied to Pepito in its concerts around the world. At the moment that is what I have found out, actually very little but I am workig on it. A local bookseller of [?ferrol] says that the history of Pepito has been hidden because there are cloudy things in his life like the murder of his girl cousin (that also played the piano) by his aunt." -- Graciela Galdo


Alcan, F. "Compte-rendu officiel du Congrès de Psychologie", 1900, p. 93.

Galdo, Graciela. E-mail message, November 1, 2002.

Richet, Ch. Annales des Sciences psychiques, April 1908, page 98.

Voir Revue Scientifique, October 6, 1900, p. 432.


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Created: October 18, 2002
Last updated: 11:10 AM 1/5/2018