Born on the island of Cuba, PAQUITO D’RIVERA began his career as a child prodigy, playing both the clarinet and the saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. He eventually went on to premier several works by notable Cuban composers with the orchestra. A restless musical genius, D’Rivera created various musical ensembles as a teenager, becoming one of the founding members of the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna, a group that he also directed for two years. Additionally, he was a founding member and co-director of the innovative musical ensemble Irakere. With its explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical, and traditional Cuban music never before heard, Irakere toured extensively throughout America and Europe, and won several Grammy nominations (1979, 1980) and a Grammy (1979).
Paquito D’Rivera's first Grammy recognition as a solo artist came in 1996 with the highly acclaimed recording Portraits of Cuba. Since then, D’Rivera has received numerous recognitions as an artist and composer. Most recently, D’Rivera received his ninth Grammy for the record Riberas with the Buenos Aires String Quartet. He is a recipient of the National Medal for the Arts, and was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.
While Paquito D’Rivera's discography includes over 30 solo albums in jazz and Latin music, his contributions to classical music are equally impressive. They include solo performances with the London Royal Symphony, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. He has also performed with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, the Costa Rica National Symphony, the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, the Bronx Arts Ensemble, and the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra, among others. Additionally, D’Rivera tours worldwide with his ensembles: the Chamber Jazz Ensemble, the Paquito D’Rivera Big Band, and the Paquito D’Rivera Quintet.
In addition to his extraordinary performing career as an instrumentalist, Paquito D'Rivera has rapidly gained a reputation as an accomplished composer. Recognition of his significant compositional skills came in 2007 with the award of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition, and the 2007-2008 appointment as Composer-In-Residence at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. His works often reveal his widespread and eclectic musical interests, ranging from Afro-Cuban rhythms and melodies, including influences encountered in his many travels, and back to his classical origins.