Darwin Aquino: “My dream is to be guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra”

Maestro Darwin Aquino has taken his Dominican pride to every corner of the world where he has performed as a conductor, violinist and composer.

He is filled with joy when he confesses that the symphonic arrangements of great Creole compositions such as “Compadre Pedro Juan” are received with applause abroad.

In more than 25 years of career, the classical musician of Banileño roots has been a finalist conductor of the Ashland Symphony Orchestra in Ohio. He has also been conductor in residence at Washington University, the Gateway Festival Orchestra and director of orchestral studies at the University of Missouri. He is now music director of the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra.

Maestro Darwin Aquino, 41 years old, who resides in Saint Louis, USA, came to his homeland as guest conductor at the Lyric Festival of the Caribbean, last May 9 in celebration of Europe Day.

In an interview with Diario Libre, the renowned conductor spoke of his love for his homeland, his influences and dreams to fulfill.

“I am a full-blooded Dominican, very connected to the musical life of my country and I feel I have a commitment even though I live in the U.S. and am developing a career in Saint Louis; as a symphony conductor, opera conductor and composer, I have always felt a great sensitivity to return to my homeland and give the best of myself so that the Dominican cultural movement continues to move forward,” Aquino reveals.

-What did you think about directing these promising lyric singers at the Festival Lírico del Caribe?

I was happy to return to my country, a country to which I am grateful for everything I am as a musician, and to have the privilege of conducting seven brilliant singers from the Caribbean together with the National Youth Symphony Orchestra, which I conducted for 12 years. It was like a great reunion with all the young people of the orchestra plus the experience of being able to meet these lyric singers. Coming back home and contributing to culture is something that makes me feel great.

-How has the pandemic affected your busy schedule?

The pandemic has affected all cultural activities, especially symphony concerts. Suddenly, as a conductor with a full schedule of activities in Latin America and Europe, I found myself with an empty agenda. We started to do concerts with masks, with small ensembles, to record them and broadcast them on Zoom or YouTube. That is why I was so happy to conduct the concert of the Festival Lírico del Caribe and I congratulate the Ministry of Culture, the Fundación Sinfonía and the European Union for allowing us to present a live concert. When I return to the U.S. I have six outdoor symphonic concerts.

-Have you loved music since you were a child?

You can say yes. At the age of 6 I was already playing the violin and I started playing it professionally at 16. Today I am 41 years old and have been playing for about 25 years. I was born in Santo Domingo and my father was my inspiration, he was a musician and motivated us to learn to play instruments.

My training as a violinist was at the Dominican Academy of Music, then I began to study musical composition and orchestra conducting. Then I traveled to France, where I studied composition at the National Conservatory of Strasbourg and then to Miami and did my master’s degree in orchestral conducting at Florida International University.

-You have toured major cities around the world as a symphony conductor?

In Germany, Costa Rica, Panama, Uruguay, Mexico? In the country I was conductor of the OSNJ for 12 years; of the Conservatory and its orchestra, as well as composer-in-residence and violinist of the OSN.

-Which classical or popular artist would you like to conduct?

There are so many and of such high quality that it is difficult to select one person. For me it would be a privilege to have a collaboration with Maestro Michael Camilo. I have always admired everything he has contributed to our country as a composer and pianist. I think he is a great ambassador for our country. In the popular area I have always admired Juan Luis Guerra, I would love to collaborate with JLG. I love all his music, I conduct a lot of his music in symphonic version. It would be great to do something with him at some point.

-And a dream?

It has been easier for me to conduct major orchestras and internationally renowned artists, but I have not been invited to conduct the Dominican Republic Symphony Orchestra. That would make me feel proud as a Dominican and also validated by the trajectory and the work we have been doing.

-How is your relationship with Fundación Sinfonía?

With Fundación Sinfonía I have been involved in countless projects over the years.

I have conducted many concerts organized by the foundation since I was very young. They have always supported me and said yes to all my initiatives. There is a very close relationship, from the past president, Mrs. Margarita Copello and the current one, Margarita Miranda, they are like my family.

He suggests promoting musical education in schools.

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