Derrick Skye is a Los Angeles-based composer, conductor and musician known for his transcultural approach to music, integrating various musical practices from different cultures around the world into his work. The Los Angeles Times has described his music as “something to savor” and “enormous fun to listen to,” while The Times (London) has praised Skye’s music as “deliciously head-spinning.” Skye is an American who has Ghanaian, Nigerian, British, and Irish ancestry.
Fascinated by the musical connections that can be found across cultures, Skye’s compositional process involves layers of problem-solving to integrate seemingly disparate musical traditions in a way that is not so different from the scientific method. With degrees in composition from the University of California, Los Angeles and California Institute of the Arts, Skye is a student of West African drumming and dance with Kobla Ladzekpo, Beatrice Lawluvi, and Yeko Ladzekpo-Cole; Persian classical music theory with Pirayeh Pourafar; tala in Hindustani classical music with Swapan Chaudhuri and Aashish Khan; Balkan music theory with Tzvetanka Varimezova; and Balinese gamelan with I Nyoman Wenten.
Skye has written orchestral music commissioned and/or performed by prestigious ensembles such as the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra (Canada), Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and The John F. Kennedy Center; a collaborative electro-acoustic artificial intelligence opera commissioned by The Lincoln Center (recently featured at TED 2023); choral works for Los Angeles Master Chorale, Conspirare, and EXIGENCE; and many chamber works. Rhythm and the embodiment of rhythm through movement and dance is an important theme in Skye’s works; he has often collaborated with choreographers such as Yeko Ladzepko-Cole, the Leela Dance Collective, Sheetal Gandhi, as well as synchronized swimming champion and international coach Sue Nesbitt.
Highlights of Skye’s oeuvre include Prisms, Cycles, Leaps for orchestra, which weaves together Western classical music, music of the Balkans, music of the Volta Region of Ghana, and Hindustani classical music; American Mirror for string quartet, which reflects on the coming together of cultures in societies consisting of many generations and descendants of refugees, immigrants, and enslaved people; and god of the gaps, a piece for solo violin, loop pedal, and electronics that features a quarter-tone flat found in the tonal systems Dastgâh-e Shur and Âvâz-e Esfahân from Persian classical music.
In addition to his work as a composer, Skye is dedicated to promoting cross-cultural understanding through music. His mission is to create music that transcends cultural boundaries and bridges diverse communities. Skye is Artistic Director of Bridge to Everywhere, Board Member of American Composers Forum, and Member of the New Music USA Program Council. Through his work, Skye demonstrates his belief in the power of music to inspire, connect, and foster dialogue across cultures.