María Guinand received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from the University of Bristol, England, in 1976 and 1982, respectively. She then earned a Choral Conductor Diploma from the Youth Orchestra Academy in Caracas in 1980. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela on 3 June 1953, and started her musical studies at 7 years old, receiving piano lessons with Alberto Grau and Cristina Vidal Pereira, as well as beginning her formal studies at the Juan Manuel Olivares School of Music in Caracas under the tutelage of Angel Sauce and Gonzalo Castellanos. She also studied History and Aesthetics of Music at the same school under Eduardo Plaza, counterpoint in the Juan José Landaeta School of Music under Primo Casale and Choral Conducting at the Choral School for the Youth Orchestras Conservatoire under Alberto Grau. In 1972, she founded and conducted her first choir Coral Colegio San José de Tarbes, conducting the ensemble for two years before leaving to England to start her Bachelor in Music in Bristol University.
Her leadership positions have included Dean of the Jose Angel Lamas Music School and Professor of Music of the University Simón Bolívar in Caracas. In Venezuela, she conducts the Cantoría Alberto Grau, the Orfeón Universitario Simón Bolívar, and the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela. Guinand served as the conductor of the Festivalensemble Choir for The European Music Festival from 2001 to 2004. She has served on the Executive Committee of the International Music Council of UNESCO, and as Vice-President for Latin America and First Vice-President in the International Federation for Choral Music. She was the principal organizer of the America Cantat III held in Caracas in 2000.
As coordinator of the choral symphonic performances of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra during the 1990s, she prepared the choirs for many performances in Venezuela and abroad for renowned conductors such as Eduardo Mata, Alberto Grau, Simon Rattle, Helmuth Rilling, Claudio Abbado, Edmon Colomer, Krzysztof Penderecki and Gustavo Dudamel among others.
In 1992, she founded two important projects for the promotion of academic music in Venezuela: the Academia Bach de Venezuela (Venezuela’s Chapter of the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart), the Academia Nacional de Canto Gregoriano, and the Coral Fundación Empresas Polar. During these years she was invited as a lecturer, guest conductor or clinician in many choral festivals around the world such as the Festival Musique-en-Morvan (France), II World Choral Symposium (Sweden), Oregon Bach Festival (US), Palomar College Choir (US), Dale Warland Singers (US), and III Choral World Symposium (Canada). She became Director of the Conservatory of Music Simón Bolívar, Director of the Academic Programme for the National Youth Orchestras System of Venezuela (FESNOJV), the world-renowned music program in Venezuela named as El Sistema, and Director of the José Ángel Lamas School of Music. During this decade she also became President of the Fundación Movimiento Coral Cantemos.
In 1996, she was invited by the Oregon Bach Festival and Helmuth Rilling to conduct the world premiere of Oceana, a cantata by Osvaldo Golijov. Also in 1996 she was involved in two important projects for the musical education in Venezuela, the Musical Center for the Children Orchestras in Montalbán (as part of El Sistema) and her creation for the Master in Music degree in the Universidad Simón Bolívar where she became a Professor, Coordinator of the Master in Music, and member of the Superior Council. She also became a Board of Directors member of the Teatro Teresa Carreño, and of the Fundación Cultural Chacao. She continued touring extensively and publishing a number of recordings during these years.
In 1997, she was awarded the Kulturpreis by the Internationes Foundation (now known as Goethe-Institut Internationes) from Germany and toured as conductor, lecturer and teacher to the ACDA National Convention (US), Des Moines International Children’s Choral Festival (US), Festival Internacional de Tunja (Colombia) and the XVIII International Course on Gregorian Chant (Italy). In the following years she served as guest conductor the New Hampshire College Choir (US), Sacramento Master Singers (US), Musica del Mendrisiotto (Switzerland), World Youth Choir (Belgium, Germany and Sweden), Oklahoma State University Choir (US) and the ACDA Convention Youth Honor Choir (US). She lectured at the IV World Symposium for Choral Music (Netherlands) and was artist-in-residence at the Des Moines Children’s Festival (US).
In 2000 she was awarded the Robert Edler Prize for Choral Music in Germany, she then was invited to conduct the world première of the La Pasión según San Marcos (St. Mark Passion) by Osvaldo Golijov at the European Musikfest Stuttgart, Germany. In this year, she also conducted the Orfeón Universitario Simón Bolívar during the First Choral Olympic Games held in Linz, Austria, where they won three gold medals. She was the president of the America Cantat II Festival held in Caracas during 2000 and artistic director of the Summer Session of the World Youth Choir also held in Caracas in 2001. During these years, she was guest conductor of the Taipei National Concert Choir (Taiwan, Taipei), the Festivalensemble Choir European Musikfest (Germany); Minnesota Chorale (US), Singapore Youth Choir (Singapore), Choir RTVE (Spain), Vox Aurea (Spain) and Radio Chor (Belgium), jury member of the International Choral Competition in Maasmechelen, Belgium, International Choral Competition (Tolosa, Spain) and National Choral Competition (Japan), and she also became a member of the Artistic Committee for the 6th World Choral Symposium and a member of the board for the UNESCO International Music Council.
She was first vice-president of the International Federation for Choral Music during 2002–2005. She conducted the La Pasión según San Marcos by Osvaldo Golijov in the US, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, England, Portugal, and Venezuela and prepared the choir for the World Premiere of the opera A Flowering Tree by John Adams, held in Vienna in 2006 and then performed again at the Barbican Centre in London in 2007.
Between 2003 and 2008, she was guest conductor of the Festivalensemble Choir Europeanmusikfest, (Stuttgart, Germany), the Youth Choral Academy, Oregon Bach Festival (Eugene, Oregon, US), the Women’s Choral Festival, Alliance for Understanding (Salt Lake City, US), Repertory Singers (Edmonton, Canada), was a jury member CBC Choral Competition (Toronto, Canada), guest conductor of the New Zealand Chamber Choir (Auckland, New Zealand), the Radio Choir (Louvain, Belgium), choirs from the University of Miami (US), and the Festival 500 (Newfoundland, Canada). She also served as director of concerts for the Andean Youth Choir (Bolivia, Ecuador), was guest conductor for the Repertory Singers (Edmonton, Canada), Berkshire Choral Festival (US), and Vocalessence (Minneapolis, US). She was a member of the Artistic Committee 8th World Choral Symposium, guest conductor for the University Voices Festival (Toronto, Canada), the University of Oregon choirs (Eugene, Oregon, US), and was involved in workshops and masterclasses at the ACDA Divisional Convention (Grand Rapids, US), the University of Oregon (Eugene, Oregon, USA) Northwest Liederkranz (Oregon, US), Gottemburg Musik Academy (Sweden), Pollyfollia Festival (Normandie, France), and the 8th World Choral Symposium (Copenhagen, Denmark).
In 2009, she was awarded the Helmuth Rilling Prize by the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Germany). She conducted the Pasión según San Marcos by Osvaldo Golijov in the Canary Islands Festival (Spain) and participated with the Cantoría Alberto Grau in the ACDA National Convention (Oklahoma, US). She also was invited to conduct the Coro Nacional de España as part of the I Ciclo de Música Coral at the Auditorio Nacional de Música (Madrid, Spain).