The Sphinx Organization is the social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Sphinx’s four program areas – Education & Access, Artist Development, Performing Artists, and Arts Leadership – form a pipeline that develops and supports diversity and inclusion in classical music at every level:
- Music education
- Artists performing on stage
- Repertoire and programming
- Communities represented in audiences
- Artistic and administrative leadership
Sphinx was founded in 1997 by violinist Aaron P. Dworkin with the goal of addressing the underrepresentation of people of color in classical music. The name Sphinx, inspired by the mythical creature and legendary statue, reflects the power, wisdom and persistence that characterize Sphinx’s participants, as well as the enigmatic and interpretive nature of music and art.
Now led by President and Artistic Director Afa S. Dworkin, Sphinx programs reach more than 100,000 students and artists as well as live and broadcast audiences of more than 2 million annually.
Here’s a brief overview of all the work the Sphinx Organization does. Click on each link to navigate through the article and learn more!
And watch two of its finest professional ensembles in a moving performance from Sphinx’s virtual gala in October here:
Annual Sphinx Competition
The Sphinx Organization’s flagship program, the Sphinx Competition is a national competition offering young Black and Latinx classical string players a chance to compete under the guidance of an internationally renowned panel of judges, and to perform with and receive mentorship from established professional musicians. With a Junior Division open to those ages 17 and under and a Senior Division open to those ages 18 to 30, prizes include over $100,000 in scholarships and cash prizes, as well as solo performances with major orchestras across the United States.
Previously held each year in Detroit, MI, the 24th Annual Sphinx Competition will be held virtually Jan. 27 – 30, 2021.
Educational Outreach Programs
The Sphinx Organization’s educational outreach programs are free, non-profit programs aimed at developing interest and education toward classical music in urban underserved areas in the United States. These programs include:
- Sphinx Performance Academy: a full-scholarship intensive summer chamber music and solo performance program for Black and Latinx students ages 12-17 with a curriculum including lessons, masterclasses, recitals, career enrichment sessions, and mentorship tailored to each student. To learn more about student experiences in the virtual Summer 2020 program at the Juilliard School, visit this post on the Juilliard blog.
- Now accepting applications for Summer 2021 at the Curtis Institute of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Juilliard School. Click here to apply: https://app.getacceptd.com/sphinxmusic
- Sphinx Overture: a program providing free access to music education, including free access to instruments and materials, to 2nd and 3rd grade students in select elementary schools in Detroit and Flint, MI through beginning violin group classes and lessons.
Sphinx Organization Music Ensembles
The Sphinx Organization has supported the formation of five ensembles comprised of Black and Latinx musicians and dedicated to promoting diversity in all parts of the classical music world:
- Sphinx Virtuosi: one of the nation’s most dynamic professional chamber orchestras, comprised of 18 top Black and Latinx classical soloists who are dedicated to bringing fresh, diverse program to leading venues around the country and to engaging in immersive outreach to communities nationwide.
- Sphinx Symphony Orchestra: the unique all Black and Latinx orchestra comprised of top professionals from around the country to come together annually at the Sphinx Competition for young Black and Latinx string players, serving as mentors to finalists, providing masterclasses and lectures, and promoting works by Black and Latinx composers.
- Catalyst Quartet: a professional quartet comprised of top Laureates and alumni of the internationally acclaimed Sphinx Competition, who combine a serious commitment to diversity and education with a passion for contemporary works.
- Harlem Quartet: a string quartet formed by first-place Sphinx Competition Laureates with a mission to advance diversity in classical music by engaging young and new audiences through the discovery and presentation of varied repertoire, including works by composers of color.
- EXIGENCE Vocal Ensemble: a professional vocal ensemble that champions the sounds of Black and Latinx composers and celebrates the power of community an expression through choral music.
The Sphinx Organization also offers arts leadership programs to support musicians, leaders and entrepreneurs of color through career development and professional empowerment, including:
- SphinxConnect: an annual conference focused on diversity and inclusion in the arts that serves as the epicenter for artists and leaders in diversity. Launched in 2017, it now attracts nearly a thousand attendees per year, including musicians, administrators, conductors, composers, funders, artist representatives, and students and parents. Major speakers have included Jade Simmons, Martina Arroyo, and Daniel Bernard Roumain.
- Sphinx Venture Fund: offering competitive grants totaling $1.5 million over five years for initiatives designed to transform the future of cultural diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts, with an emphasis on classical music.
- Sphinx Medal of Excellence: an annual award and $50,000 career grant bestowed upon three extraordinary Black and Latinx classical artists.