Michael Daugherty’s “Desi”: Reawakening the Latin Big Band

Vivid cultural allusions abound in the music of Michael Daugherty (b. 1954), an American composer famous for his five-movement Metropolis Symphony, inspired by the Superman comics.

Daugherty’s Desi is an exuberant romp for symphonic band, composed in 1991. Its conversing instrumental “characters,” at once spirited, comic, and menacing, sweep us into a dangerous and  exhilarating party. It’s easy to imagine ghosts from the audience of Desi Arnaz’ Hollywood big band reawakening and forming a wild conga line.

Here is an excerpt from the composer’s program note:

This work is a tribute to the persona of Desi Arnaz (1917-87), who played the Cuban bandleader Ricky Ricardo alongside his wife Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy, widely regarded as one of the most innovative television comedy shows of the 1950s.

The opening rhythmic motive is derived from the conga dance made famous by Arnaz when he sang and played bongos in Hollywood film musicals in the 1940s. In Desi the bongo soloist and percussion section provide a lively counterpoint to intricately structured musical canons and four-note cluster chords, creating polyrhythmic layers that intensify and build to a sizzling conclusion. Desi evokes a Latin sound punctuated by big band trumpets, trombone glissandi, and dazzling woodwind runs.


  • Daugherty: Desi, Eugene Migliaro Corporon, North Texas Wind Symphony Amazon

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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