Darwin Aquino

Washington University Symphony Orchestra
MM Orchestral Conducting, Florida International University
research interests:
  • orchestra
  • opera
  • conducting
  • composition
  • contemporary music
  • strings
  • symphonic music from Latin America
  • folkloric music from the Dominican Republic
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    contact info:

    office hours:

    • By appointment

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • CB 1030
    • One Brookings Drive
    • Saint Louis, MO 63130
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    Darwin Aquino conducts the Washington University Symphony Orchestra. 

    Dominican conductor and composer, Darwin Aquino appears internationally and is regarded as among the most accomplished Caribbean artists of his generation, in both symphonic and operatic fields. 

    Having recently conducted Vincenzo Bellini’s monumental opera Norma, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch remarked: “Darwin had the orchestra sounding great from the first measures of the overture and maintained a good balance between stage and pit. He has a fine feel for the nuances of the bel canto style, and knows to breathe with the singers”.

    A sought-after guest conductor known for his “moving, absorbing and robust performances,” Darwin enjoys regular engagements around the world, including the Philharmonishes Staatsorchester Mainz in Germany, Saarländisches Staatsorchester in Germany, National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica, ADCA Symphony Orchestra in New York, Filarmónica Boca del Rio in Mexico, Palm Beach Symphony Orchestra, Alfredo Saint Malo Festival Orchestra in Panama, FIU Symphony Orchestra in Miami, and the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, among others.  Aquino was also selected as Music Director by the world acclaimed Italian tenors Il Volo, for concert tours in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

    Recent performances in his current hometown of St. Louis include Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Celeste Boyer (Violin, Second Associate Concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony), Melissa Brooks (Violoncello, Associate Principal St. Louis Symphony Orchestra) and Nina Ferrigno (Piano); Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Washington University Symphony Orchestra and Choirs; Walton’s Viola Concerto with Joanna Mendoza (Arianna String Quartet) and Robert Wykes’s Monument to the Dream, written to commemorate the building of the symbolic Gateway Arch. 

    An opera conductor regarded for his “passionate and precise baton,” Darwin has received outstanding reviews and public praise for his interpretations of Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Bizet’s Carmen, Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri, Donizetti’s Elisir D’Amore, and Bizet’s Pearl Fishers. Early in his career, he was appointed Cover Conductor at the Florida Grand Opera (Don Pasquale, Carmen, Norma, Barber of Seville), Opera Naples (La Boheme), the Palm Beach Symphony Orchestra, and the Florida International University Symphony Orchestra. He conducted the Dominican premiere of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 with the Música Sacra Philharmonic to great acclaim and received the prestigious Premio Soberano as Successful Dominican Artist Abroad.

    As a passionate advocate of social change through classical music, Darwin worked closely for many years with Gustavo Dudamel in Venezuela and previously held posts as Artistic Director of El Sistema, Director of the National Conservatory of Music and Music Director of the National Youth Symphony Orchestra, in his homeland the Dominican Republic. Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu, founder of the world-known Venezuelan Sistema, referred to Darwin as “a great conductor, excellent composer and eminent violinist. A pioneer for classical music.” Darwin was awarded for his service to the youth with the Hildegard Behrens Young Artist Prize and the Arts Advocacy Award, both in the United States.

    For the 2018-2019 season he served as Music Director of Winter Opera St. Louis, Music Director for the Música Sacra concert series in Santo Domingo, Conductor-in-Residence for the Washington University Symphony Orchestra, Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Missouri St. Louis,  Cover Conductor for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and St. Louis Youth Symphony Orchestra. Aquino has also been recently selected as Music Director for the Gateway Festival Orchestra, starting in July 2019.

    Darwin’s principal teachers were Grzegorz Nowak and Ramon Tebar, with additional studies and masterclasses from Benjamin Zander, Colin Metters, Jose Serebrier, Carlos Miguel Prieto and James Judd. He holds a Master’s in Music in Orchestral Conducting from the Florida International University, where he received the Graduate Performer Award for his conducting of E. Chabrier opera L’Etoile. 


    “My music emerges from the heart of Caribbean rhythms and chants. We are a creative mixture of cultures – an explosion of sounds, colors, and imagination. It has always been my universe, my poetic vision of the world. “ 

    For the 2018-2019 season Dominican composer Darwin Aquino is celebrating four new commissions and world premieres by the Florida International University Orchestra (Violin Concerto), Chamber Project St. Louis (Chamber piece for 6 instruments), Women Hope Chorale (Chorus, Piano, Violoncello and Percussion) and University of Missouri Brass Department (Chamber piece for Trumpet Ensemble).

    Aquino’s most celebrated orchestral composition, Espacio Ritual, had its European premiere by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France during the Festival Presences, resulting in glowing praise from La Musique au Jour le Jour: “Aquino has very well listened to the French composers, Boulez or Varese, developing in this piece a deeply personal language and an inventive mastery for writing to the orchestra.” Other orchestral works have been performed by international ensembles such as Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Mainz Philharmonic Orchestra, Saarländisches Staatsorchester, Youth Orchestra of the Americas, Santo Domingo Music Festival Orchestra, Filarmónica Boca del Rio in Mexico, Washington University Symphony Orchestra, Dominican National Symphony Orchestra, and the National Symphony of El Salvador.

    The Latin American Collegium of Composers invited Aquino as their youngest member for his outstanding achievements in composition. He was invited to Cuba as one of the judges for the top Composition Prize Casa de las Americas. A frequently performed composer worldwide, his chamber music has been selected for the New Music ISCM in Miami, Latin American Music Festival in Venezuela, SMASH Salamanca in Spain, Las Americas in Concert at the Mannes College of Music in New York, International Forum of New Music in Mexico, Universidad de Costa Rica, and North South Consonance in New York, among others.

    Aquino studied composition at the Conservatoire National du Strasbourg in France with Italian maestro Ivan Fedele and served as composer in residence for the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic. During his career he has received the Musici Mojanesi Composition Prize in Italy, three National Composition Prizes and two Academic Composition Prizes in the Dominican Republic.


    Recent Reviews

    “The music is light and spirited, especially when given such a splendid reading by the Winter Opera orchestra under the smart, stylish conducting of Darwin Aquino, who keeps the tempo brisk and upbeat throughout” - Ladue News, St. Louis

    “As he has in previous Winter Opera productions, Darwin Aquino led the orchestra in an authoritative account of the score. The ensemble always projects a large sound in the acoustics of the Viragh Center” - KDHK Theater Reviews, United States

    “An excellent support and professional sound from the symphony orchestra, conducted by Darwin Aquino” - The Miami Herald, Florida

    “Lyricism of the score emerges with great beauty from the orchestra conducted by Darwin Aquino. As usual the balance between the voices and the orchestra was ideal” - Two on the Aisle, St. Louis

    “Maestro Aquino draws lovely work from his musicians throughout the opera” BWW Opera World, United States

    “It was not a surprise the work of the orchestra conducted by Darwin Aquino, who led Vivaldi without baton, Piazzola with impressive energy and Kuusisto with the concentration that requires such a difficult and strange piece for an audience not familiar with contemporary music” - Diario Libre Newspaper, Dominican Republic

    "The orchestra, under the direction of Darwin Aquino, gives the finest performance I've heard in any of the many productions I've seen at Winter Opera. With the opening phrases of the overture it simply bursts out of the gate. It snatches us up and carries us away like a robber bridegroom whisking his love up onto his galloping steed. The tempo is almost alarming. Such energy! Such excitement! Such precision!" - BWW Opera World, United States

    “These extraordinary concerts had an enormous reception, which has risen the expectations to continuously program this international repertoire with the Mainz Philharmonic Orchestra “ - Mainzer Kultur, Germany

    "Conductor Darwin Aquino kept them and the rest of the cast on track, with brisk tempos. The orchestra and the children’s chorus did solid work" - St. LouisPost – Dispatch, United States

    “Aquino’s conducting was rousing and dominant, carrying Verdi’s rich score in the capable hands of the Winter Opera orchestra” / "Bizet’s music is captivating and enthralling, especially when performed as lushly as it was in Winter Opera’s presentation under the steady influence and keen ear of conductor Darwin Aquino, who kept the orchestra on a high level of performance throughout" - Ladue News, St. Louis

    “The success of the concert rested in the quality of the orchestra under the precise and passionate baton of Darwin Aquino” - HOY Newspaper, Dominican Republic

    Congratulations to Aquino, who brought all this together in a manner to do justice to Verdi” - BWW Opera World, United States

    “Down in the pit, conductor Darwin Aquino leads the orchestra in a very polished interpretation of the score. Without being a large ensemble they produced a satisfyingly robust sound” - Stage Left, United States