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Derrick Wang, composer

Derrick Wang is a composer, lyricist, and librettist unlocking artistry in unlikely places.

He is the composer and librettist of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, inspired by the opinions of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. 

Scalia/Ginsburg was first introduced to the public by National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg in 2013, when Mr. Wang was invited to present selections at the Supreme Court before Justices Ginsburg and Scalia. At its 2015 world premiere at Lorin Maazel’s Castleton Festival, Scalia/Ginsburg was hailed by both arts critics and legal commentators as “brilliant…gorgeous” (DC Theatre Scene), “funny, exceedingly clever” (Above the Law), “laser-accurate…top-notch” (Classical Voice North America), and “tuneful…accessible…smart…a triumph” (The American Interest). The Los Angeles Times wrote: “Could we please make it a constitutional requirement that no one can be sworn into office in the White House or Congress without first having seen Scalia/Ginsburg?” In 2017, Scalia/Ginsburg received its sold-out second production in a revised version at The Glimmerglass Festival, where acclaimed tenor William Burden starred in the role of Scalia. The Wall Street Journal praised the “engaging” opera’s “musical wit,” and Opera Today described Scalia/Ginsburg as “enchanting” and “a perfect…jewel.”

A 2015 version of Mr. Wang’s libretto to Scalia/Ginsburg, containing over 200 footnotes to legal and musical precedent, was published in the Columbia Journal of Law and the Arts, with prefaces by Justices Ginsburg and Scalia. Selections from the libretto were republished as a chapter in Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 2016 book My Own Words, with Mr. Wang narrating and performing an adapted version of this chapter in the audiobook. Scalia/Ginsburg is also cited in Justice Ginsburg’s foreword to the 2017 book Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived.

Mr. Wang’s work has drawn significant attention to opera in the national and international press — as the subject of a front-page article in The Wall Street Journal, a three-page illustrated feature in the Süddeutsche Zeitung [Germany’s largest national subscription daily newspaper], and articles and interviews in outlets including the ABA Journal, Associated Press (AP), Bloomberg, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna [Poland], The Economist, The Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, The New Republic, Opera Today, Der Standard [Austria], and The Washington Post. His work has received further coverage in The New York Times, AARP The Magazine, and the ABC television program Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

As a composer, Derrick Wang has received awards from musical organizations including ASCAP and BMI. His compositions, presented by artists and groups including the American Modern Ensemble, Castleton Festival, Glimmerglass Festival, Maryland Opera Studio, Opera Saratoga, Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale, Washington National Opera, and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, have been heard in venues from New York to Shanghai, and his orchestrations have been performed at Carnegie Hall and Juilliard.

As a librettist and lyricist for opera and theater, his words, set to his own music, have been performed at venues including the York Theatre, Ars Nova Theater, Joe’s Pub (New York Public Theater), Center Stage (Baltimore), Harvard University, and Yale University. He has also served as a Resident Artist (Composer & Librettist) at American Lyric Theater.

As a scholar and speaker on law and the arts, he has addressed select performing-arts audiences, legal organizations, and educational institutions in the United States and abroad. Appearances include presentations for TEDxBroadway, the Judicial–Congressional Dialogue at the Library of Congress, Second Circuit Judicial Conference, National Constitution Center, Stanford Arts Institute & Stanford Law School, Columbia Law School, and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

He also serves on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University, where he designs and teaches a new interdisciplinary curriculum on music and law.

As an attorney, he is Counsel at Thomas & Libowitz, P.A., where he advises creative clients in all industries as they launch, run, and grow their ventures. He has also spent time at premier Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y Combinator, where he shadowed a group of over 100 startups while researching the creativity of tech entrepreneurship.

Born in Maryland, he graduated from Gilman School while studying piano at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. He received his A.B. magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in music from Harvard University and his Master of Music (M.M.) degree in Composition on a Richardson Scholarship from the Yale School of Music. He also received his J.D. on a Houff Leadership Scholarship from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law.

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