Paquito D'Rivera, an accomplished performer and composer, was born in Havana, Cuba on June 4, 1946. He was a child prodigy, at age five playing clarinet and saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. His works reflect influences of Afro-Cuban culture, jazz and classical music.
In his teen years, he founded and performed with two musical groups. With these groups, he toured Europe and America, leading to them to several Grammy Awards. He received other awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award for his Contribution to Latin Music.
In 2002, he was commissioned by The National Symphony Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic, to write a concerto "Gran Danzon" (The Bel Air Concerto) for the acclaimed flutist Marina Piccinini. It premiered under the baton of Maestro Leonard Slatkin at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Mr. D'Rivera is an Artist in Residence at New Jersey Performing Arts Center and serves as member of the board of director of many important artistic organizations in the US that influence classical and jazz styles alike. For ten years, Mr. D'Rivera has been Artistic Director of the famous world-class Festival International de Jazz en el Tambo in Uruguay.
In January 2005 the National Endowment for the Arts named Paquito D'Rivera an NEA Jazz Master, America's highest honor in jazz. He received a National Medal of Arts in November 2005.