- Associate Professor, Chamber Orchestra/Violin/Viola, Music
- Email: alejandro.drago@UND.edu
- Office: 701.777.2509
- Dept: 701.777.2644
Hughes Fine Arts Center Room 208
3350 Campus Road Stop 7125
Grand Forks ND 58202-7125
Hailed by music critics as “a superb musician” with the “classical virtuosity of a Heifetz or Perlman,” the "suave café style of Florian Zabach” and the “jazzy insouciance of Stephane Grappelli,” Alejandro Drago has “crisscrossed the line between concerto virtuoso and jazz soloist.” His versatile musicianship has allowed him to be successful with many diverse styles and genres. His discography in France, USA and Argentina includes string quartets, concertos, avant-garde tangos for the EMI International label and a two-volume CD of works for solo violin distributed internationally by Naxos Music Library Japan and CD Tradition.
Alejandro Drago's life in music began in his native Argentina where, as a small child, he accompanied his mother, a professional tango dancer, to the venues where she performed. His mother introduced him to Antonio Agri, who spent over a decade as the lead violinist of Astor Piazzolla’s various ensembles. Thanks to Agri’s recommendation, young Alejandro was able to start his music training. He received a scholarship from the Russian government to study at the Moscow State Conservatory under Marina Yashvili, and obtained his Master of Fine Arts in Violin Performance and Pedagogy. In 2008 he received a Master’s Degree in Violin Performance and a D.M.A. in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Southern Mississippi.
As a soloist, Alejandro has performed in world-class concert halls such as the Great Hall at the Moscow Conservatory, the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Hall, Teatro Colón de Buenos Aires, The Kennedy Center and the Kolarac Zal of Belgrade, with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra, the Belgrade Philharmonic, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and the Belarus State Academic Symphony, among many others. He has toured extensively in Russia, the United States, China, Austria, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Switzerland, Lithuania, Taiwan, Belarus, Italy, France, Spain, Brazil, Spain, ex-Yugoslavia (Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina), Romania, the Republic of Moldova, Portugal, Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Paraguay, Ecuador and Haiti.
As a conductor, Alejandro began his training with the CCBA Chamber Orchestra in Buenos Aires. Alejandro’s recognized expertise in the field of string studies has led him to coach regularly a number of youth and professional ensembles, including the Guayaquil Symphony Orchestra in Ecuador and the MERCOSUR Youth Symphony Orchestra. He has been a guest conductor with the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, Tandil Chamber Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of the Argentine Library of Congress and the MERCOSUR Academic Camerata, and conducted the Festival Orchestra of the Xth Tiberius Week Festival in Targu Mures, Romania. From 2005 to 2008 he was the Assistant Conductor of the Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and Chief Conductor of the Southern Mississippi Chamber Orchestra. Since 2008, he has appeared on a number of occasions as a guest conductor with the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra, and recently has signed as the Artistic Director of this organization for three seasons until May 2019.
Alejandro's scholarly works have become important references in English language scholarly studies of Tango music. He maintains strong connections with the music of his homeland through his career as a performer, researcher, lecturer, composer and arranger. His symphonic and chamber arrangements of Argentine music have been performed extensively in Europe and Latin America, as well as in the United States by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The critics wrote about Alejandro’s arrangements:
“His transcription [of Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons] retains the score’s inspired stream of melodies without neglecting the astringent harmonies and austere instrumentation of Piazzolla’s original chamber versions. Drago is a splendid musician. His languorous rendition of Invierno Porteño astutely combined sentimentality with Mozartean beauty. Drago’s bravura violin technique beguiled the listeners. His easy synthesis of aristocratic café suaveness and fiery zest were terrific.” (Entertainment News & Views).
“Drago's retooling for violin and string orchestra so deftly captures the rhythmic ingenuity, offbeat effects and astringent harmonic edge of the original quintet version that the bandoneon and electric guitar are hardly missed. Drago proved himself a wonderfully idiomatic exponent of his compatriot's tango music. His lean, focused tone drew out Piazzolla's atmospheric melancholy as well as the touch of sleazy languor while deftly skirting the schmaltz.” (The Miami Herald)
He conducts masterclasses, seminars, lectures and lecture-recitals extensively in Asia, Europe and the United States, invited by institutions of higher learning such as the Belarus National Academy of Music (Minsk), Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Bogotá), the East China Normal University (Shanghai), the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), the Emory University (Atlanta, GA), the University of Georgia (Athens, GA), Arizona State University (Phoenix, AZ) and the Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN), among others. He teaches and performs regularly in festivals in Latin America, the US and Europe. Also in demand as an adjudicator, he has been a member of the jury of the 2014 Alice & Eleonore Schoenfeld International String Competition (junior category) in Harbin, China; Chairman of the Jury at the 2015 “Harmony” International Competition of Slavic Music (string division) in Belgorod, Russia; member of the jury of the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Leopold Auer International Competition, in St. Petersburg, Russia; member of the jury at the 4th Hong Kong International Music Festival and President of the jury of the 2017 First International Viola Competition of Mississippi, in Jackson, Mississippi.
In July 2008, Alejandro joined the faculty at the University of North Dakota (UND) Department of Music as the Professor of Violin and Viola and Director of the UND Chamber Orchestra. Under his leadership, the UND Chamber Orchestra conducted two regional tours, and its first ever international trip in 2013, to Brazil, invited by the Festival Música nas Montanhas (Poços de Caldas, MG). He is also the creator of the UND Student String Quartet scholarship program, which put the strings division of UND Music firmly in the national map, with three international tours (Brazil, China, the Czech Republic) and the issuing in 2013 of the first CD by a student chamber ensemble at UND, featuring classical and modern works for string quartet.
Alejandro's many awards include a special prize in the Rodolfo Lipizer International Competition (Italy, 1992), third prize in the Petar Konjovich International Young Musicians Competition (Yugoslavia, 1993) and the first prize in the "New Talents in Classical Music" Competition (Buenos Aires, 1997). Highlights of past seasons include performances of Alban Berg's Violin Concerto with the University City Symphony Orchestra, Missouri, the performance of the complete solo violin cycles of L'Ecole Moderne op. 10 by Wieniawski and the Six Polyphonic Etudes by Ernst in one concert dedicated to Ruggiero Ricci's legacy, and the multiple performances of his own Violin Concerto in the US, Brazil, Belarus and the Republic of Moldova.
"Drago is a violinist of formidable gifts. Combining virtuoso dazzle with a tone that is dark and full, he can spin a melody in mesmerizing hues or play double or triple stops with seemingly effortless bravura." (Fort Lauderdale Connex, October 2013)