Recent CCM graduate and Fulbright scholar Derrell Acon. Photography by Dottie Stover.

Recent CCM graduate and Fulbright scholar Derrell Acon. Photography by Dottie Stover.

The University of Cincinnati’s Derrell Acon just graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music with a master’s degree and plans to return in 2014 to pursue his doctorate. But in between, Acon will be leaving for Italy this August to pursue both performance opportunities and research thanks to his Fulbright award.

Acon plans to “explore the relationship between the performer and  audience.”

“I will engage in research at the National Institute of Verdian Studies in Parma,” he said. “As well as present my own lecture-recital composition entitled ‘Whence Comes Black Art?: The Construction and Application of ‘Black Motivation,’ which has been presented throughout the United States.”

Acon’s passion for performing began early on, and continued through high school where he was a participant in both solo and ensemble festivals. He was often required to translate, interpret and memorize non-English pieces. That experience might be tedious to some, but he recalls it providing him with “so much joy.”

“When I joined the Artists-in-Training program through Opera Theatre of St. Louis (OSTL) during my senior year (in high school), my desire to pursue a career in vocal performance was solidified,” he added.

From there, Acon graduated from Lawrence University and Conservatory of Music with baccalaureate degrees in government and voice performance. He called pursuing his master’s “a natural next step.”

“I was privileged enough to be accepted into CCM at UC,” he said. “I was yet more delighted to join the studio of one of the best voice instructors in the world, Professor William McGraw. My academic and professional singing journey have continued to flourish.”

At the moment, Acon is a Gerdine Young Artist at OSTL and in the early stages of a work he will research in Italy: “I propose that in opera, especially when composed by Giuseppe Verdi, what pleases the audience most is when the upheld values of purity and virginity are abused and/or crushed,” he said. “In that, the climaxes and dramatic drive of the performances often involve a grieving, pleading or dying woman.”

While he’s still laying the groundwork for his research, Acon says he’s continuously finding new layers and angles for his research.

“I look forward to digging even deeper once I have access to the many resources Italy offers.”

Outside of research, Acon says the most challenging, and also rewarding, part of his life as a performer is technique – something he will be improving after his departure in August.

“It is sometimes unsettling to imagine how much one’s success in performance hinges on ‘good technique,’” he said. “At the same time, it can be refreshing to know that one just continues to improve with instruction, practice and time.”

While Acon encourages other performers to let their passion guide their career and work choices, he did leave the door open for a path on a different type of stage: law.

“I don’t currently have plans to pursue a career in government, but I may attend law school someday.”

Ten UC faculty and students have recently earned, recently returned or are currently abroad thanks to their Fulbright awards.

Learn more about these grant recipients here.

— Written by Theo Marshall

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