Derrick Skye is a composer, conductor, and musician based in the Los Angeles area who often integrates music practices from different cultural traditions around the world into his work with classical music communities. The Los Angeles Times has described his music as “something to savor” and “enormous fun to listen to.”The Times (London) described Skye’s music as “deliciously head-spinning.” 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. Skye studied classical music with Ian Krouse, Alex Shapiro, Paul Chihara, Randy Gloss, and David Rosenboom while also studying West African music and dance with Kobla Ladzekpo, Beatrice Lawluvi, and Yeko Ladzekpo-Cole; Persian music theory with Pirayeh Pourafar and Houman Pourmehdi; Balkan music theory with Tzvetanka Varimezova; and tala (rhythmic cycles) in Hindustani classical music with Swapan Chaudhuri and Aashish Khan.
Skye’s music has been commissioned and/or performed by ensembles including Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra (Canada), Chicago Sinfonietta, Albany Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, Berkeley Symphony, Dayton Philharmonic, The National Orchestral Institute at Kennedy Center, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Conspirare, EXIGENCE, Cantori New York, Cecilia Chorus New York, Yale Glee Club, The Juilliard School, Sphinx Virtuosi, Lincoln Center, Bridge to Everywhere, Salastina Music Society, Lyris Quartet, Super Devoiche (Bulgarian Women’s Choir), and Lian Ensemble (Persian Ensemble).
Skye received the New Music USA Award in 2010 and 2011 and was awarded a composer residency with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra through New Music USA’s “Music Alive” program for the 2015-2016 season. In 2021, Skye was awarded the Prince Grace Honoraria in the Theatre category for his work “Mother of Bravery” and “Best New Composition” in the San Francisco Classical Voice Audience Choice Awards for his work “Mind the Rhythm” for violin and electronics.
Skye has given pre-concert talks and workshops about the use of non-Western music in his compositions at universities and institutions including UCLA, USC, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Skirball Cultural Center. He served as a composer panelist for the 2022 and 2019 League of American Orchestras Conference, and previously spoke at the 2016 conference on the topic of how classical music orchestras can forge stronger relationships with their diverse communities. Skye serves as Artistic Director of the new music collective and arts organization Bridge to Everywhere, Director of Instrumental Ensembles at Mount Saint Mary’s University, and Artistic Advisor for Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Skye is an American who has Ghanaian, Nigerian, British, Irish, and Native American ancestry. His ancestry and identity have led him to claim and develop an “American” aesthetic that incorporates many cultural influences into his work, reflecting the diverse communities he is part of. Skye passionately believes in music as a doorway into understanding other cultures and different ways of living. Through learning the music of other cultures, the opportunity for dialogue rather than conflict between strangers is opened, and our society can become one with less conflict due to cultural misunderstanding. He is deeply invested in fostering creative and effective collaboration between artists of different disciplines and traditions.