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Dafnis Prieto Concerto for People of Earth and String Orchestra

Grammy Award winning composer Dafnis Prieto composes concerto for Latin music ensemble People of Earth and string orchestra


Virtuoso Latin band People of Earth is partnering with Music Director Teddy Abrams, the Louisville Orchestra, and the Britt Festival Orchestra to commission Grammy-award winner and MacArthur fellow Dafnis Prieto to compose a 20 minute concerto for People of Earth and string orchestra.  As a critically acclaimed composer and percussionist, Cuban born Dafnis Prieto is the perfect choice to bridge the world of Cuban dance music and contemporary classical music. He possesses unparalleled knowledge of Latin rhythms and styles as well as two decades of experience composing for a wide array of mixed ensembles.

This concerto will fuse elements of Cuban Timba music, Latin jazz, and contemporary classical music in a new work that connects musical traditions from throughout the Americas. It will create an infectious dance energy rarely felt in the orchestral concert hall.  The work will be scored for string orchestra and feature the core of People of Earth (POE) as soloists: three singers, three percussionists, bass, piano, keyboard, two trumpets and two trombones.

In this project, POE seeks funding to support the commissioning and workshopping phase of the concerto, allowing Dafnis to complete the composition as well as workshop the piece with People of Earth in New York City during winter of 2021.  In this crucial phase, Dafnis will work closely with POE to realize and revise the soloist component of his composition.  The project will culminate in the world premiere in Louisville, Kentucky with the Louisville Orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Teddy Abrams.  POE has also already received booking confirmations for performances of the concerto beyond the dates of this project, during Britt Festival Orchestra’s 2022 season.

In conjunction with the concerto performance, POE will implement a tailored educational and community residency component to reach new audiences and demographics wherever Dafnis’ concerto is played. This residency will complement the presenter’s existing education programs and will directly aim to reach new audiences and demographics.  The curriculum for the residency will draw directly on musical and thematic material from the concerto.  It will focus on Afro-diasporatic and Latin rhythms, songs, and dances and place an emphasis on reaching immigrant populations and students with special needs.

This grant will allow People of Earth to join forces with Dafnis Prieto to exhibit the sounds of an expanding global culture.  New Music USAs support will help POE reach, educate, and impact diverse communities and redefine America’s conception of the look and sound of the modern classical soloist.

The timeline for this project is as follows:

July, 2020-December 2020:  Dafnis Prieto composes concerto for People of Earth and string orchestra.

January 2021: Dafnis and People of Earth spend a week workshopping the piece in New York City.

February 2021-April 2021: Dafnis revises the concerto as needed.

April 2021-August 2021: People of Earth rehearses the concerto in New York City.

September 2021: The concerto is premiered with the the Louisville Orchestra under the baton of Teddy Abrams along side a weeklong concurrent immersive community engagement residency in Louisville, Kentucky.


Project Media

Una Vez Mas
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Features: Dafnis Prieto

This piece is from Dafnis Prieto’s Grammy winning album Back to the Sunset. Written for big band, this work highlights Dafnis’ compositional style and mastery of Afro-Cuban rhythms and idiosyncrasies. At 2:21 there is a timba-style piano and clave breakdown, reflecting Dafnis’ affinity for contemporary Cuban music. Dafnis will bring his experience writing for large ensembles and horn sections to this commission, while exploring the new color palette presented by the string orchestra.

People of Earth performs Chiki
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Features: People of Earth

This video showcases People of Earth’s high energy performance and musical style. The song uses a blend of Cuban songo and timba rhythms, held down by the four person percussion section of conga, timbales, drum set, and guiro. Virtuosic horn parts punctuate the lead vocal, played by POE’s 5 member section. “Chiki” or Chikirikiti is the imagined sound from the dancing of hips and weaves through a series of verses and coros before the montuno despelote at 3:44.

Teddy Abrams, The Louisville Orchestra’s Rockstar
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This episode of CBS Sunday morning focuses on the imaginative and out of the box artistry that Teddy Abrams bri to his tenure at the Louisville Orchestra. There are many clips of him conducting brand new concertos; with Jeremy Kittle (:23), Jim James (:58), and Julia Wolfe’s Rise and Fly (5:18). Also of note is the orchestra’s commitment to community engagment. At 5:22, Teddy describes how he and the LO weave themselves into their community through musical residencies with refugees relocated to Kentucky, using music to foster inclusion.

Start and End Dates



Louisville, Kentucky

Project Created By

New York, New York
People of Earth is a global music collective set on blurring the barriers between the great art forms of the terrestrial sphere, creating an explosive blend of the music of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil and beyond. The world class musicians who make up this collective represent more than eight different nationalities and have played with…

In Collaboration With

Louisville, Kentucky
Jacksonville, Oregon
Hollywood, Florida


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