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Sphinx Organization Digitally Presents Two of Its Flagship Programs

The programs run January 28 to 30.

Sphinx Organization Digitally Presents Two of Its Flagship Programs

The Sphinx Organization, dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts, is presenting its fifth annual and first ever digital SphinxConnect convening, SphinxConnect 2021: UNITY!, from January 28 to 30, 2021. SphinxConnect is the annual epicenter where artists and leaders in diversity meet, and this year's convening features over 70 speakers exploring topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion in the arts.

Conference highlights include an opening session with Elizabeth Alexander, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation President, interviewed by American public radio host and journalist Jenn White, and a closing session with pianist and 2014 Sphinx Medalist Damien Sneed. Other panels include: Artful Resilience: How Musicians Innovate in Crisis, Socially Vocal: a Discussion on Race and Identity in the Arts, This is Everyone's Fight: How Philanthropic Institutions Stepped Forth to Support Artists and BIPOC Institutions, and The ABCs of DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and EDIB (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging): Best Practices in Implicit Bias and Anti-Racist Training with speakers including Jenny Bilfield, Clive Gillinson, and Deborah Rutter. The digital sessions are interactive and participants will have opportunities for one on one networking with panelists during the course of the three day conference.

Tickets for the conference are priced at $150 for the full series of events, as well as a "Pay What You Are Able" option to minimize attendance barriers. SphinxConnect Virtual Fellowships provide free access to the conference and $75 towards internet costs. An application for a SphinxConnect Fellowship is available here. A list of session and panelist information is below: the full schedule is available here.

In conjunction with the convening, the Sphinx Organization also hosts its prestigious competition recognizing the outstanding achievements of young Black and Latinx classical string players, offering them the opportunity to compete under the guidance of an internationally renowned panel of judges, and receive mentorship from established professional musicians. The organization's founding program, now in its 24th year, includes both a Senior Division (ages 18 to 30) and a Junior Division (ages 17 and under).

The Sphinx Competition Junior and Senior Division Finals will feature the three Finalists from both the Senior and Junior Divisions. Presented by DTE Energy Foundation, the concert will be available to watch on Sphinx's website, YouTube Channel, and Facebook on Saturday, January 30 at 7pm ET.

Senior Division (Ages 18 to 30) Semi-Finalists include: Paul Aguilar (violin - Houston, Texas), Quenton Xavier Blache (cello - Wake Forest, North Carolina), Kebra-Seyoun Charles (bass - Miami, Florida), Maïthéna Girault (violin - Montreal, Quebec), Christian Gray (bass - Winston-Salem, North Carolina), Luiz Fernando Venturelli (cello - Praia Grande, São Paulo, Brazil), Mikel Rollet (viola - Boca Raton, Florida), Samuel Abraham Vargas Teixeira (violin - Araure, Portuguesa, Venezuela), and Andres Vela (bass - Edinburg, Texas). Three of these Semifinalists will perform at the Finals Concert on January 30.

The First Place Senior Division winner receives a $50,000 Robert Frederick Smith Prize, and solo appearances with major orchestras; Second Place receives a $20,000 cash prize; and Third Place receives a $10,000 cash prize. An Audience Choice Award, sponsored by Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, with a $5,000 cash prize, will be determined by audience members texting in their votes.

Junior Division (Ages 17 and Under) Semi-Finalists include: Ian Barnett (violin - Key Biscayne, Florida), Isabel Diaz (violin - Miami, Florida), Gabriella Foster (violin - Nesconset, New York), Kearston Gonzales (violin - Hampton, Virginia), Brandon Leonard (cello - Stone Mountain, Georgia), Jonathan Okseniuk (violin - Mesa, Arizona), Amaryn Olmeda (violin - Loomis, California), Dillon P. Scott (viola - Lansdale, Pennsylvania) and George T.A. Wolfe-McGuire (cello - Amityville, New York). Three of these Semifinalists will perform at the Finals concert on January 30.

The First Place Junior Division winner receives a $10,000 cash prize, solo appearances with major orchestras, and a nationally-broadcast radio appearance on From the Top; Second Place receives a $5,000 cash prize; and Third Place receives a $3,000 cash prize.

The Competition Semifinals for both Junior and Senior Divisions will take place on January 15 at 10am ET and will be streamed on the website and Facebook. For more information, please visit The Finalists in both the Junior and Senior Division will be announced at 7pm ET.

"SphinxConnect is a place for gathering, sharing, and celebration. We look forward to learning with and from one another, through meaningful dialogue at the intersection of social justice and the arts" said President and Artistic Director Afa S. Dworkin. "This year has shown us that we can only move forward if we all work together. We hope to welcome a larger group of participants from all around the world to SphinxConnect: UNITY!"

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