Meet Dominick DiOrio
by Marene Gustin
Photo by Matthew Fried
Tenor, teacher, conductor, composer.
Dominick DiOrio’s life is all about the sweet sounds of music. Well, that and food.
“My brothers would be outside shoveling snow,” says the 27-year-old, “and I’d be inside helping my mom cook.” His mom also started him on his career path by teaching him piano at age 7.
“I guess if you had to sum me up in two words, it would be music and food!” he laughs.
DiOrio has every right to sound happy these days. He is currently the choral director and associate professor of music at Lone Star College-Montgomery, where his students just voted him a Star Award as their favorite instructor for 2012. The Houston Chamber Choir, where he’s been a tenor since 2009, will premiere his full-length composition A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass next year. The work is influenced by a poem of the same name written by lesbian poet Amy Lowell. Lowell’s works were largely forgotten after her death in 1925, but she made a comeback when gender studies took hold in the 1970s, and she was even awarded a Pulitzer Prize posthumously.
“I was drawn to her poetry,” DiOrio says. A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass, published in 1912, deals with the seasons. “As a composer using text, it was very fertile ground.”
The blue-eyed musician joined band and choir in high school, and actually started composing as a teenager, writing compositions for the marimba and xylophone, which he also played. He also started designing websites at 13 (yes, he designed his own site), came out at 18, and earned a summa cum laude Bachelor of Music degree in composition from the Ithaca College School of Music in 2006—all while winning a slew of competitions and scholarships. From there, he went on to earn a Master of Music degree in choral conducting from Yale University in 2008, and he’s set to finish his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Yale next year. The whole Houston Chamber Choir will be heading to Yale next April for a rare choral residency and a performance of A Dome.
“I’m very excited,” he says of the choir trip. “It’s like my two worlds are colliding. I can’t wait to see some of my old professors.”
He’ll also get to see John, his partner of three years, who is also finishing his DMA degree. DiOrio says that the couple hopes to eventually make Houston their home.
“When I first came to Houston, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” he says. “But then I found the gay scene in Montrose and all of my fear was turned on its head.” He loves the food, the art, the music, and doesn’t even mind the long commute to Montgomery. “I go to the museums here—I love the Menil, and just walking through the parks,” he says. And then there are the restaurants. This self-professed foodie loves to haunt Monica Pope’s T’afia and its Saturday farmer’s market, Nidda Thai Restaurant, and his favorite, Hugo’s.
“I also love to cook,” DiOrio says. “But I don’t have a lot of time these days. He also doesn’t have time for pets. “I leave the house at 7 a.m. and rehearse most nights, so I’m afraid I’d kill them.” However, he does try to hit the gym three times a week to keep in shape.
My, he is a busy boy—and still riding high from the reviews of his opera Klytemnestra for Divergence Vocal Theatre in January, while working on some new commissions. He worries that some day he may have to choose between conducting and composing, but for now he’ll continue to do both, as well as singing and teaching.
“I love working with the Chamber Choir members—they are so talented,” DiOrio says. “They really are one of the best choirs in the country. And I also love teaching. I’m so honored about the student award; it really humbles me. But even better is that ‘aha moment’ when your students get it. I’ve always wanted to teach.”
Houston Chamber Choir
The choir kicks off its 16th season on September 20 with Ave Maria—Music of Devotion to Our Lady at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. DiOrio’s premiere of A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass will be held on March 24 at The Church of St. John the Divine. For season subscriptions, visit houstonchamberchoir.org or call 713/224-5566.
Marene Gustin is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.