ABOUT DERRELL

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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.

M I N D

Fortify the mind so 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.”

 

B O D Y

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.

S O U L

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

Dr. Acon is a 2013-2014 Fulbright scholar to Italy, where he researched the operas of Giuseppe Verdi and lectured on the Black American experience. He is also an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grantee for his work in Verdian scholarship and performance and a frequent presenter throughout the U.S. at such venues as conferences for the National Association for Ethnic Studies and National Association of Negro Musicians, and internationally at venues in Europe and Africa. He has also been seen as an opera lecturer at The Chautauqua Institution, Portland Opera, Long Beach Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, and Des Moines Metro Opera.

Dr. Acon’s most recent scholarship on Blacktivism and the power of performative education continues to be presented throughout the country. Drawing from literature, advocacy, story, and song to engage and energize audiences, Dr. Acon uses the power and immediacy of performance to educate and empower audiences.

An award-winning bass-baritone, well-known for his appearances with The Glimmerglass Festival, the LA Master Chorale and for his groundbreaking work as an activist on the subject matter of race and equity, Dr. Acon has reached the minds of audiences around the world and in his local community.

M I N D

Fortify the mind that your intellect informs your soul.

It was once said that real power is knowledge. Knowledge is truly power. I use the untouchable intensity of my intellect to navigate an otherwise marginalized position. As a Fulbright scholar in Italy, I had the great opportunity to research and understand the minds behind world-renowned operas. Having explored the works of Giuseppe Verdi and his connection to his own society and people, and speaking on the Black American experience here and worldwide, I’ve cultivated a keen understanding of the world of race, justice, and equality – three concepts that need to be explored and discussed often.  

If we seek to expand our minds, we must draw from literature, 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—therein demonstrating the power and immediacy of performance to educate and empower.

B O D Y

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. Understanding and acknowledging that we can at times lose touch makes it simpler for us to remain disciplined.

The key to a fitness and nutrition program that is effective and sustainable is rooted in a holistic understanding of how the mind, body, and soul are intimately linked. Currently Dr. Acon is welcomes scholarly engagements, presentations, and partnerships that address and analyze identity 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 not currently accepting private personal training or fitness nutrition clients at this time.

S O U L

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. Music is a driver behind our actions and emotions. The overall influence music has on our brains can create a sense of unity and equality between seemingly disparate and drastically different people.

M E D I A

C O N N E C T