Dafnis Prieto

Drummer, Composer, Faculty Member, UM Frost School of Music

May 2018

Dafnis Prieto fell in love with percussion in his native Santa Clara, Cuba, when he first picked up the bongos at the age of 7. He studied at Havana’s National School of Music and gigged in the late 1990s with the experimental quartet Columna B before leaving the island – first for Barcelona and then, in 1999, New York.  There he taught jazz studies at New York University from 2005 to 2014. In 2011 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant. He joined the Frost School faculty in 2015. He has worked with a host of luminaries, including Eddie Palmieri and Brian Lynch.

I come from Cuba, and I bring that culture with me in the way I play…

Dafnis Prieto

The release in April of the Dafnis Prieto Big Band album “Back to the Sunset,” hailed by Downbeat magazine as “a big, beautiful, bodacious tribute to Prieto’s heroes and one of the best recordings of the year.” 


As a child, Prieto says drumming “felt natural to me.” As an adult, “I love teaching,” he says. “I think it is a very high way of communicating experiences and knowledge, touching the spiritual realm of giving and receiving. I come from Cuba, and I bring that culture with me in the way I play, the way I teach. It’s personal. I basically explain myself, and how I got to do what I do. It makes me feel happy to see the process of growth in young students who are eager to learn. You see yourself in them.” 

Photo by Henry Lopez

Story by Mike Clary