By Libby Huebner, Santa Clarita Contributor
Derrick Spiva Jr., a beloved Santa Clarita music teacher, conductor and rising composer noted for integrating non-Western music traditions with classical music, will have his latest work, From Here A Path, premiere by the renowned Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) on May 19, at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, and on May 20, at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Since 2006, Spiva, a CalArts MFA alumnus, has taught African drumming at West Creek Academy, a public elementary school, as part of CalArts’ Community Arts Partnership. In addition, since 2011, he has served as the Executive Artistic Director and Conductor of the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Orchestra, comprised of talented local high school and middle school students.
LACO guest conductor Sameer Patel conducts the world premiere of Spiva’s work, which is the second part of a trilogy for chamber orchestra. Patel also conducts Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-Flat Major, featuring cellist Joshua Roman. In addition, LACO Concertmaster Margaret Batjer leads from the first chair both Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso in D Minor and Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E-Flat Major.
Spiva says his new piece, “From Here A Path draws inspiration from Husago, a West African piece from Ghana’s Ewe people that includes drumming, dancing and singing, kaval flute playing from Eastern Europe and elements of Hindustani classical music. The title references the momentum and resistance one gathers to reach a point.”
The Los Angeles Times has described Spiva’s music as “something to savor” and “enormous fun to listen to.” During his studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and the California Institute of the Arts, music across many cultures became an integral part of his musical vocabulary.
Spiva’s works have also been premiered by UCLA Philhamonia, Los Angeles Electric 8, Chapman University Wind Ensemble, the Salastina Music Society, Super Devoiche (Bulgarian Women’s Choir), Lian Ensemble (Persian Ensemble), Exigence, among other groups. Spiva has given preconcert talks and workshops about the use of non-Western music in his compositions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Skirball Cultural Center, UCLA, USC, and various other schools and institutions. He received the New Music USA Award in 2010 and 2011. He was asked to speak at the 2016 League of Orchestras Conference on the topic of how classical music orchestras can forge stronger relationships with their diverse communities. Spiva serves as Artistic Director of the new music collective and arts organization Bridge to Everywhere.
LACO ranked among the world’s top musical ensembles, marks its 50th anniversary in the 2017-18 season. Beloved by audiences and praised by critics, the Orchestra is known as a preeminent interpreter of historical masterworks as well as a champion of contemporary composers. Headquartered in the heart of the country’s cultural capital, performs throughout greater Los Angeles. Jaime Martín is LACO’s Music Director Designate and takes the podium as Music Director in the 2019-20 season.
For more on LACO visit laco.org.