Director, University Orchestra
Assistant Professor of Music



Darwin Aquino, Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Missouri - St. Louis is a Dominican conductor and composer seen internationally as the most accomplished Caribbean artist of his generation, in both symphonic and operatic fields.



His latest review in conducting Vincenzo Bellini’s monumental opera Norma by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch conveys: “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 well-traveled guest conductor labeled by his “moving, absorbing and robust performances,” Darwin constantly enjoys engagements around the world. Multiple appearances include the Philharmonishes Staatsorchester Mainz in Germany, Saarländisches Staatsorchester in Germany, The Cleveland Opera, 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, 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.

Some recent performances in his now 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, to commemorate the building of the symbolic Gateway Arch.

A fervent opera conductor as well regarded for his “passionate and precise baton,” Darwin has received outstanding reviews and public praise for conducting 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 for 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.

Deeply interested in social transformation 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.

In addition to his teaching duties at University of Missouri - St. Louis, for the 2018-2019 season he also served as Music Director for Winter Opera St. Louis, Music Director for the Música Sacra concert series in Santo Domingo, Conductor-in-Residence for the Washington University Symphony Orchestra, and Cover Conductor for the St. Louis Youth Symphony Orchestra. Aquino also recently began work 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 acclaimed composer Darwin Aquino celebrated four new commissions of 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 remarkable appraisal 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 joined 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.

Aquino's works are published by Cayambis Music Press.


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