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.