LACO is working alongside Derrick Spiva Jr. — a classical music composer, artistic director of Bridge to Everywhere, the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Orchestra (SCVYO), Santa Monica Youth Orchestra (SMYO), and LACO’s newly appointed artist-educator — to reimagine music education as an opportunity for youth to celebrate cultural differences.

There are over 100 FM radio stations in Los Angeles. If you surf down the FM dial during weekday traffic, you might hear the sounds of hip-hop on Power 106, Puerto Rican singer Daddy Yankee on Mega 96.3 or the opening of a Mozart piano concerto on 91.5 KUSC classical. As Angelenos and music lovers, we have the opportunity to appreciate a diverse range of musical genres and cultural traditions.

Kids in the classroom also have a unique opportunity to experience music, especially as it crosses borders and cultures. They should be able to explore questions like, how do musical traditions change? How do they stay the same? What are the common threads that connect seemingly very different traditions? Can diverse musical collaboration be a metaphor for diverse societal collaboration? All classrooms should be places where differences are embraced, and a music classroom, argues Spiva, is the ideal place to begin.

“On today’s concert with Santa Clarita Valley Youth Orchestra we’ve got Mozart, we’ve got Bartok and we’ve got Poovalur Srinivasan,” says Spiva backstage before a recent SCVYO concert. “If you introduce these types of concepts to young people, they’re gonna know what to do because they’ve seen it before, they will have already done cross-cultural classical music.”

Spiva is a composer and musician based in the Los Angeles area who integrates music practices from cultural traditions around the world in his work with classical music communities. He is deeply invested in fostering creative and effective collaboration between artists of different disciplines and traditions.

“Classical music is the most open and free genre of music there is.”
— Derrick Spiva Jr.

During his studies at UCLA and the California Institute of the Arts, cross-cultural musical experiences became an integral part of his vocabulary as a composer. Spiva passionately believes in music as a doorway into understanding other cultures and ways of living.

“Classical music is the most open and free genre of music there is. You’ve got a piece like 4:33 by John Cage, and then you have Mozart and Beethoven and that expansive part of the library,” says Spiva, “but what people see when they see people playing classical music does not reflect the freedom of the sound. There are not a lot of musicians of color in orchestras.

“Being a person of color in classical music is not a very easy thing sometimes,” reflects Spiva. “At least that has been my experience.”

Orchestra and Choir programs are wonderful educational experiences for kids, but often times there are young people who don’t feel culturally represented by classical music, through who is performing and in the programming itself. In a diverse city like Los Angeles, the classical music community is striving to include the talent of young artists of all backgrounds.

The diversity of Los Angeles needs to be met with expansive programming and LACO is thrilled to have Derrick Spiva Jr. leading the charge as artist educator.