My work aims to promote cross-cultural understanding and communication between communities and artists of different backgrounds, through compositions that build bridges between instruments, genres, cultures, and people. I sometimes term this compositional process as a musical equivalent of linguistic “code-switching,” where a speaker engages with two or more languages or dialects in conversation. All facets of my work strive to bring disparate communities together through music and encourage composers and musicians to broaden their role as artists in the communities in which they work.
Derrick Spiva Jr. is nationally recognized as a rising star in the classical music world. Based in the Los Angeles area, Spiva is a composer, conductor, musician, and educator who often integrates musical practices from around the world into his work with classical music communities. The Los Angeles Times has described his music as “something to savor” and “enormous fun to listen to.”
Spiva is an American who has Ghanaian, Nigerian, British, Irish, and Native American ancestry. His ancestry and everyday life in multicultural Los Angeles have led him to develop an “American” aesthetic that incorporates many cultural influences into his work, reflecting the diverse communities he is part of.
In addition to his training in Western classical music, Spiva has extensively studied West African music and dance, Hindustani classical music, Balinese gamelan, Persian classical music, and music from the Balkans. Spiva passionately believes in music as a doorway into understanding other cultures and different ways of living. Through learning the music of other cultures, the opportunity for dialogue rather than conflict between strangers is opened, and our society can become one with less conflict due to cultural misunderstanding. Spiva is deeply invested in fostering creative and effective collaboration between artists of different disciplines and traditions.
Spiva is Co-Founder of the Code Switch Composers Collective, Artistic Director of Bridge to Everywhere, and Artistic Advisor for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Music Director/ Conductor for Novae Sinfonia. He has released two album recordings, Prisms, Cycles, Leaps (2015) and American Mirror (2018), on Orenda Records.
His works have been premiered, performed, and/or commissioned by Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Dayton Philharmonic, Berkeley Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, Albany Symphony, Vijay Gupta/Street Symphony, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Cantori New York, EXIGENCE, Juventas New Music Ensemble, musica assoluta, Salastina, Lyris Quartet, Los Angeles Electric 8, and others. Derrick and his wife, ethnomusicologist Kim Nguyen Tran, live in Los Angeles.
As the artistic director of Center for Musical Excellence, I am always on the look out for new and undiscovered talents. They come to me, sometimes, by my colleagues’ recommendations and other times through young artists’ own research about our organization. Tyson Davis and Andrew Bambridge are currently on our roster of CME Young Artists, whom we mentor. Patricio Molina is a CME alumnus. Theo Chandler, Ji-Young Ko, and Daniel Newman-Lessler applied for our Grant program, and I got to know their work through that process. I decide on young artists when I notice a deep passion and drive within them, plus a certain kind of sparkle in the personality and lots of humility. In addition to musical talents, I believe these are the qualities that will take the young artists far. CME’s motto is "Moving Musicians Forward". I’ve chosen our Discovery Composers based on these qualities, whom we felt we could easily move forward.
- Min Kwon