Meet composer Darwin Aquino

Meet Composer Darwin Aquino

We’ve commissioned Darwin to write a piece for our concert on Nov. 16 at the 560 Music Center. When we met Darwin we were instantly charmed by his enthusiasm and kindness!We are lucky to have him call St. Louis home! Come to the concert to meet him and enjoy his music!

Darwin headshot.jpg

Tell us a little about your path to becoming a conductor and a composer and your road to St. Louis.

I started composing when I was a little kid in my country the Dominican Republic. Just for fun. The violin is my instrument, so I was inventing in my head small pieces and playing them myself. With time I started to put them on paper and moved to other instruments. We had a piano in my house because my sisters played. With the years, contemporary composition became a huge part of my creative life and my work expanded to chamber, orchestra, vocal music, etc. I just love to live in a “World of Imagination” (as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! One of my favorites movies and soundtrack). Later I went to study composition in France with Ivan Fedele and began to explore in many new trends. Conducting came after…it is a funny story: I was the concertmaster of the National Youth Symphony Orchestra in my country and the conductor could not continue working for us. The orchestra, with a brilliant tradition of years, was going to fall apart. I said to him: can I continue the orchestra and conduct the rehearsals?... With out knowing anything about conducting actually. It was the best learning experience of my life. Then I became the music director of the Dominican “El Sistema” and later came to the US to achieve my masters in conducting. My road to St. Louis has to do with conducting Opera, which I love. Living in Florida I worked with many professional singers who later recommended my work to Winter Opera St. Louis. Conducing my second opera with them here I met my fiancé. After that, everything in my life was pointing me to move to St. Louis and continue my musical career from here. I don’t regret it.

Where did the idea for your piece for Chamber Project originate from/what was the biggest challenge when working on this project?

The title says everything I think: "Redescrubrimiento (which means “rediscovery" or "new encounters", in Spanish): A Dominican in St. Louis”. Of course it deals with a redefinition of myself in all senses. New things coming into my life, artistic experiences, another city and people, etc. Actually it was the first composition that I was offered to do here in town, after a period where I did not compose much because I was traveling a lot for work. I thought, if there is An American in Paris, why not A Dominican in St. Louis? The biggest challenge was to be able to mix my impressions of St. Louis with the folkloric music of the Caribbean (which has been my main trend of expression as a composer since 2007). That is why the audiences will find tropical rhythms, percussion instruments and colors mixed with moments of deep calm and silence (which captivates me the most about this city). St. Louis is very quiet and the Dominican Republic is extremely active. But at the end of the day I love both places with all the different things they have to offer. Finally. the piece pretends to have a comic balance between noise and silence.

Darwin conducting Winter Opera St. Louis

Darwin conducting Winter Opera St. Louis

What interests you most about music?

That you can find truth. Not in a rational way but in an emotional one. Music, as the Universe, has an internal will power, that undoubtedly is the closest that we have to feel something “real”.  

Who is your current inspiration?

My love Benedetta Orsi and our plans to build a family here.

What do you think the role of classical music is in today's world?

I think it plays an important role: we should not forget that great/real things need time to develop and exist. We live in a world that moves extremely fast and we don’t have time for anything (except for social media!). I strongly believe that is taking from us our humanity and spiritually. Classical music makes you go inside yourself and expand time in a creative manner, which is in my opinion one of the best tools we have to really know ourselves. You can not do that watching pictures and videos the whole day…Everyday we want more things and faster. Is not human, is not possible. We are not made to live like that.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

The silence of the city and the kindness of its people. I could not ask for a better welcome of my musical work here. Also the top music scene the city has. Plus, a couple of Mexican restaurants…!

What's next for you?

I’m so blessed to have a full season of engagements in composition and conducting. Many things are next! For example the world premiere by Robert Davidovici of my new Concerto for Violin, Strings and Percussion at the Florida International University. Washington University Symphony Orchestra is welcoming me as their new conductor-in-residence with an amazing concert on October 28th. Also my orchestral piece YOAminicana will be premiered in St. Louis by this ensemble in our “Fiesta Latina” concert.  As a conductor I have upcoming symphonic concerts in New York City and the Dominican Republic, to then come back to do Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri and Bellini’s Norma with Winter Opera St. Louis. The end of the season will bring to life a new composition for Female Voices, Piano and Percussion, commissioned by the Women’s Hope Chorale. Can’t complain! I want to take the opportunity of this interview so say THANKS from the bottom of my heart to the city of St. Louis, its people and musical institutions, who have received me in such a wonderful and inspirational way.