Sphinx Finals Concert Celebrates Diversity

Detroit Free Press, February 9, 2012

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this week, the annual Sphinx Competition for black and Latino string players can look back on a track record of remarkable success and growth. Started on a shoestring by MacArthur Fellowship winner Aaron Dworkin to address the historic inequities of minorities in classical music, the competition has provided more than $1 million in prize money and scholarships, arranged hundreds of performance opportunities for its laureates with top American orchestras and reached more than 100,000 kids in schools and community centers.

The Sphinx Organization in Detroit has become one of the great driving forces for change in a field that desperately needs fresh ideas on every front. Beyond the competition—which culminates with Sunday’s finals concert featuring noted conductor Michael Morgan, the all-black and Latino professional Sphinx Symphony, Catalyst Quartet and competition laureates—Sphinx oversees an empire of education and residency programs, camps, an instrument fund, touring ensembles, music commissioning program and more.

While the numbers show that minorities still make up less than 5% of musicians in American orchestras, the Sphinx program is making a difference. Six competition alums have won jobs with major orchestras, and Sphinx programs are increasing the pool and visibility of minority musicians. {snip}

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