Dominick Argento was born and grew up in Pennsylvania. He was drafted after high school and worked as a cryptographer. After his discharge, he used the GI Bill to enroll in the Peabody Conservatory. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in composition from that institution, and also spent a year in Florence, Italy, on a Fulbright Fellowship. After receiving his PhD from the Eastman School of Music, he spent another year in Florence on a Guggenheim Fellowship.
When he took a position at the University of Minnesota, he hoped that it would be a stepping stone to a more prestigious position on the East Coast. However, Argento received commissions from almost every musical organization in the Twin Cities, and regularly scored music for the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. In 1963, he was a co-founder of the Minnesota Opera Company and wrote its first performance piece, the opera "The Masque of Angels." In 1975 he won a Pulitzer Prize for Music for "From the Diary of Virginia Woolf." His choral music has been performed around the country. Argento credits the interest and support of the Twin Cities' arts community for providing the perfect laboratory for his musical success, and has often said that he is not sure he could have achieved so much in the more intense arts environment on the East Coast.
"Casa Guidi," performed by Frederica Von Strade and the Minnesota Orchestra, won a Grammy in 2004 as Best Contemporary Classical Composition.