Fulbright scholar Dr. Derrell Acon is an award-winning activist, arts leader, and performer who understands the power of the performing arts to foster human compassion and catalyze conversations on challenging subjects. He has over 15 years of experience as an equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) practitioner and continues to establish himself as a leader in classical music, education, and ethnic studies as relates to the role of the artist-activist. Dr. Acon is known for his unique and provocative presentations, which often combine performance and scholarship. 

His experiential workshop “An Absurdist Conversation on Rainbows and COLOR” boldly explored the queer experience within Black culture, while his performance-presentations “Ay Blackity Black; Classical S$#t that ain’t Wack,” “Old Opera, New Opera, Red Opera, Blues Opera,” and “poems are bullsh*t: Demanding Black Space in Opera” explored the barriers inherent to classical music education and performance. He has worked as the Arts Equity Specialist for the OPERA America New Works Forum and as a consultant with various institutions throughout the sector. He has taught at all levels on topics in 19th century opera, Black Art, and artistic activism, including a course entitled “The Musician in Society” at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and an online seminar entitled “Viva VERDI: Why Giuseppe and Gang would be BLM Activists.” He is the Associate Artistic Director and Chief Impact Officer at Long Beach Opera in Los Angeles County and the Associate Artistic Director at Heartbeat Opera in New York City.  

Dr. Acon is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grantee for his work in challenging the traditional narrative in opera and is a frequent presenter throughout the U.S. at venues such as the National Association for Ethnic Studies and National Association of Negro Musicians conferences, and internationally at venues in Europe and Africa. His publications include “From Without the Veil” (“In Mourning and In Rage” conference papers out of Rome, Italy), “Neglected Legacy” (OPERA America Magazine), “Whence Comes Black Art” (Lawrence University), and “This is Just My Job: Duty and Intervention in Our Fidelio” (Septentrion University Press out of Lille, France). Recent operatic roles include Rocco in Heartbeat Opera’s Fidelio and Antron McCray in the Pulitzer Prize-winning production of The Central Park Five by Anthony Davis with Long Beach Opera.


Fortify the mind that your intellect informs your soul.

Knowledge is truly power. Dr. Acon uses intellect and strategy to navigate an otherwise marginalized position. If we seek to expand our minds, we must draw from our experiences, become advocates for that in which we believe, share our story and the stories of others, and use those stories and songs to engage and energize audiences—thereby demonstrating and employing the power and immediacy of the arts to educate and empower.

As En Vogue put it: “Free your mind, and the rest will follow.”


Tend to your body that your fitness and nutrition discipline your mind.

Maintaining a body that is healthy, strong, and well-nourished is a learned discipline that can work its way into all aspects of one’s life. Our bodies must be well-nourished before we can truly unlock our potential. Sound nutrition equates to a clarity of thought and allows us to be fully attuned to our soul.  Once we lose grasp of such clarity and discernment, we quickly pace away from discipline and progress.

Dr. Acon is interested in scholarly engagements, presentations, and partnerships that address and analyze disparities — e.g., based on race, gender, and/or sexual orientation — in the health and fitness industry. Inquiries should be sent to info@derrellacon.com. Dr. Acon is a certified personal trainer (NASM) and fitness nutrition specialist (NASM), but is not accepting private training or nutrition clients at this time.


Express from deep within your soul that your truth becomes manifest throughout your whole body and personhood.

The soul must be deep and expressive. Music has deep connections with our brains. It is intrinsically meaningful not only to humanity as a whole, but to each of us as individuals. We thrive on music. The overall influence music has on our brains can create a sense of unity and connectedness between seemingly disparate and drastically different people.

“Music makes us feel ourselves to be connected with our larger social context. Because we respond to music physically, this connection is visceral as well as emotional. It is valuable to ethical living, for it extends one’s sense of immediate concern beyond one’s private person. It extends the range of one’s identity by dissolving one’s sense of a barrier between oneself and the rest of humanity.” – Kathleen Marie Higgins