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Denver-based composer Derrick Hodge directs music for 94th Academy Awards

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Posted at 4:33 PM, Mar 25, 2022

DENVER — Denver-based Composer Derrick Hodge will direct the music for the 94th Academy Awards telecast airing on ABC this Sunday at 6 p.m. MT.

Derrick, who is originally from Philadelphia, has created music for some of the most well-known artists and shows of the past few years, mostly from his home studio in Denver.

“I started working on some things for the Grammys for a very cool upcoming performance in a couple of weeks and also did the Super Bowl a couple of months ago,” Derrick said.

Derrick has worked with Common, Kanye West, Quincy Jones, Robert Glasper and many more artists. But working on the Oscars has been a highlight of his career.

“It's been fun writing, working for the Oscars,” Derrick said.

At a time when #OscarsSoWhite still circulates online, Derrick is one of three Black composers directing the music for this year’s awards show.

"My lifelong brother, Adam Blackstone, who was the creative music director for the whole thing this year, he reached out. He was like, 'Hey, let's do this!'" Derrick said.

Derrick said at times, this week’s rehearsals were emotional.

“People shed tears, crying as they were recording with us in the moment saying, 'You know, it was in the same room that musicians said, "I don’t even want to sit next to this Black person,"'” Derrick said.

Derrick draws inspiration from the stories of musicians who came before him and the items they’ve passed along, including his family’s piano.

“Every time I touch that family piano… I feel the history and the spirit. The piano, I think, is about 121 years old,” he said.

The piano has been in the family of Derrick's wife Christian for decades.

“It's been a connection to family. It has been a connection to the spirit, and the heartbeat of so many things that I've done, especially over the past two years,” he said.

“Our piano has been a family heirloom,” Christian said. “It came to my mom in the early 1950s. It was gifted to her and it has stayed in our family ever since…He works out ideas in his mind on the piano, so he's constantly playing the piano at home.”

Christian and Derrick have two kids and have been together for 15 years. Christian is originally from the Denver metro area.

“It was important for us to stay in Denver because our family is here,” Christian said.

As their family has grown, so has Derrick’s career.

“He's always been in love with orchestra, so to see him scoring films and documentaries and to come to this precipice of the Oscars where it's this world platform — it's been really amazing,” Christian said. “I really am proud, watching him grow through all of this. Every challenge that has presented itself to him, he's risen to the occasion and far exceeded anything that he's been held to. I'm just really proud that our family gets to be part of this historical moment.”

But Derrick said it’s Christian who deserves the praise.

“I’ve got to give my wife Christian all the love because I feel like every part of my journey is completely connected to her,” Derrick said. “Family is everything for me and that's honestly what is enabling me to have been able to write for the Oscars, sitting in that same place where that piano sits. It's that balance that made it happen.”

As he prepares for one of the biggest gigs of his career, Derrick said he surrounds himself with reminders of what got him here.

“On all my bases, I write knowledge, integrity, wisdom, respect, love,” Derrick said.

Derrick said it’s the love of his family and his music that will continue to sustain him for the many chapters, or verses, ahead in life.