Classical Music Competition and Conference Takes the Stage
The nonprofit Sphinx Organization promotes and enhances diversity in the arts with inaugural conference and competition.
Since Aaron Dworkin started playing violin at age 5, he noticed people of color were underrepresented in the classical music scene. Because of this lack of diversity, in 1996 he founded the Sphinx Organization with his elementary school teacher, Carrie A. Chester.
This month, the nonprofit honors African-American and Latino youth in the arts—and hosts a groundbreaking conference to discuss diversity in the art arena.
The organization’s flagship event, the Sphinx Competition, runs Feb. 13-17 at Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit, offers young people a chance to compete before a panel of world-renowned judges.
The competition is open to all Black and Latino American junior high, high school and college students who are string musicians.
The group also is simultaneously hosting its SphinxCon, a gathering of the most brilliant leaders in the orchestral, business, academic and art worlds to discuss diversity in the arts.
SphinxCon features an exciting roster of speakers that include actor Delroy Lindo, star of “Heist” and “The Cider House Rules,” Farai Chideya, journalist, professor and award-winning author, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of the New York City-based dance troupe, Urban Bush Women.
The event, slated to be held at the Marriott Renaissance Center in Detroit, runs Feb. 15-17.
“It seems like the perfect blending of two important initiatives of ours,” Dworkin says. “There never has been this type of gathering which is solely focused on diversity in the performing arts, and now it will happen every year in Detroit. This is important.”
The Sphinx honorary committee boasts artists such as Nikki Giovanni and classical music legends Yo-Yo Ma, Branford Marsalis and Leonard Slatkin of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Marsalis sits on the inaugural jury panel for the Sphinx Stars: Detroit competition, which gives youth a chance to compete for a grand prize of $10,000 this spring.
When Dworkin started Sphinx, 1.5 percent of orchestra members were Black or Latino. Now, the number has grown to less than 5 percent, according to Sphinx. The group also has $2 million in scholarship awards that helps youth purchase quality instruments, attend Sphinx partner music schools and summer music camps.