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The Sphinx Organization Announces 2022-23 Season Events

Detroit-based, national social justice organization celebrates its 25th anniversary during 2022-23 season.

The Sphinx Organization Announces 2022-23 Season Events

The Sphinx Organization's 25th anniversary celebrations will continue throughout the 2022-23 concert season with tours and appearances by three of its professional performing ensembles comprised of Black and Latinx artists: Sphinx Virtuosi, the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, and EXIGENCE, Sphinx's vocal ensemble.

All Sphinx concert programs will feature works by historically excluded Black and Latinx composers alongside contemporary composers including new works and arrangements by Valerie Coleman, Michael R. Dudley, Xavier Foley, Carolina Heredia, Ricardo Herz, Jessie Montgomery, Rubén Rengel, and Carlos Simon. Sphinx Competition first place laureates from 2012-2022 will appear as soloists and in recital with professional performing arts organizations throughout the country as part of their competition prize packages. Additionally, keystone Sphinx events SphinxConnect and the 26th Annual Sphinx Competition are expected to be held in-person in Detroit in January 2023 following two years of virtual events, enabling the broader Sphinx community to celebrate the anniversary together. (Full calendar of events follows.)

President and Artistic Director of Sphinx, Afa S. Dworkin, says the organization's performing arts ensembles are one of the most visible examples of Sphinx's impact with the artists acting as cultural ambassadors for artistic excellence and diversity.

"In this milestone 25th anniversary year, it feels more essential than ever to amplify the artistic excellence, pioneering programming, and impassioned community engagement of Sphinx's professional ensembles," says Ms. Dworkin. "The Sphinx Virtuosi's exciting international debut in Brazil and the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and EXIGENCE's debut appearances at UMS and the Kennedy Center are landmark occasions for Sphinx as an organization and especially for the talented artists who are truly transforming the face of classical music."

Sphinx was founded in 1997 by MacArthur Fellow, violinist, spoken-word artist, and poetjournalist Aaron P. Dworkin who is now Professor of Arts Leadership and Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan. Today, Sphinx has evolved into the multi-faceted Sphinx Organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts and catalyzing systemic change in the classical music field through four programming areas: Education & Access, Artist Development, Performing Artists, and Arts Leadership. Sphinx has awarded nearly $5 million in scholarships and artist grants, having nurtured 850 alumni while reaching 2 million annually in live audiences.

Founded in 2004, the Sphinx Virtuosi is a professional self-conducted chamber ensemble comprised of eighteen accomplished Black and Latinx artists that tours annually making it Sphinx's flagship performing entity. In October 2022 it will tour a program titled "Songs for Our Times" to seven cities. (Full calendar below.) The tour program includes two works co-commissioned by Sphinx, New World Symphony, and Carnegie Hall: Tracing Visions by Valerie Coleman and Divided by Jessie Montgomery (Sphinx Medal of Excellence 2020). It also features Between Worlds by Carlos Simon (Sphinx Medal of Excellence 2021) and new Sphinx commissions Prayer for Our Times by Michael R. Dudley and Sísifo na Cidade Grande by Ricardo Herz alongside Heitor Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No. 9 and Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 9, Op. 47 arranged for string orchestra by Rubén Rengel.

On Thursday, October 13 at 7:00 p.m. the Sphinx Virtuosi will bring this program-and more- to New York's Carnegie Hall, its concerts an established presence on the esteemed presenter's fall season. For this 25th anniversary concert, the Sphinx Virtuosi will be joined by violinist Amaryn Olmeda, the first place laureate of the 2021 Sphinx Competition Junior Division, to perform Carlos Simon's Between Worlds. Fourteen-year-old Amaryn was recently named the first participant in the Artist Apprenticeship Program, a partnership between The San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Opus 3 that pairs seasoned managers with an outstanding early-career musician. The Gala will also offer the world premiere of An Ode to Our Times by composer, double bassist, and Sphinx laureate Xavier Foley featuring Foley and fellow laureate violinist Hannah White as guest soloists.

The Sphinx Virtuosi will then make its international debut at the Sala São Paulo in Brazil on Monday, October 24 presented by the TUCCA International Concert Series. Violinist and composer Ricardo Herz will be the guest soloist performing his own works, Inocente and Mourinho, that have been part of the Sphinx Virtuosi's recent tour programs, prompting the invitation for the ensemble to perform in his home city.

"As we work to augment Sphinx's impact and scale our programs, our international debut comes with an exciting opportunity for Sphinx Virtuosi to reach new audiences and transform more lives through the power of innovative and collaborative programming," says Ms. Dworkin.

Members of the Sphinx Virtuosi have performed as soloists with major American orchestras, including the Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Seattle Symphony Orchestras and the New York Philharmonic. Members also hold professional orchestral and academic positions. Outside of the classical realm, Sphinx Virtuosi musicians have also worked with leading International Artists such as Beyoncé and Jay-Z and made high profile appearances including on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and the 2022 Grammys broadcast.

First assembled in 2000, the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra (SSO) is a professional all-Black and Latinx orchestra that comes together annually at the Sphinx Competition, serving as mentors to finalists, providing masterclasses and lectures, and promoting works by Black and Latinx composers. The finalists in the competition perform with the symphony in Detroit's Orchestra Hall. Originally scheduled for 2022, the SSO will venture out of Detroit for the first time in January 2023, performing two Sphinx 25th anniversary celebration concerts at UMS in Ann Arbor on Sunday, January 29 at 4:00 p.m. and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, January 31 at 8:00 p.m., a co-presentation of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Washington Performing Arts in cooperation with The Washington Chorus.

The concerts will be conducted by Tito Muñoz and feature guest soprano Aundi Marie Moore. The program includes MotherBoxx Connection, a new work by Carlos Simon-who is currently the Kennedy Center's Composer in Residence-commissioned by the SSO for the anniversary concerts. Owing to the postponement of the concert from this year to next, the piece, inspired by the graphic novel In Search of the MotherBoxx Connection by the artist collective Black Kirby, will have its world premiere at Tanglewood performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons in July. The SSO's anniversary concerts also feature works by Michael Abels, Valerie Coleman, and Carlos Cordero, alongside the Traditional song, Fix Me, Jesus (arr. Augustus Hill) that will feature Ms. Moore, and closing with two choral works. Joining the SSO on stage for these works will be Sphinx's professional vocal ensemble, EXIGENCE, with founding music director, Dr. Eugene Rogers (Sphinx Medal of Excellence 2017). They will perform Joel Thompson's Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, a powerful multi-movement choral work that memorializes the last words spoken by seven African-American men killed by police or other authority figures. They will also perform the song "Glory" from the movie Selma by John Legend and Common, arranged by Eugene Rogers. At the Kennedy Center, EXIGENCE will be joined by members of The Washington Chorus.

Comprised of top professionals from around the country, the SSO includes past and current members of the Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Puerto Rico, and St. Louis Symphony Orchestras, the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics, and the Met Opera Orchestra, as well as faculty members of leading music institutions. EXIGENCE is a professional vocal ensemble highlighting artistry within Black and Latinx communities. Led by founding conductor Eugene Rogers and comprised of vocal artists including solo performers, educators, conductors and composers, EXIGENCE celebrates the power of community and expression through choral music. Inspired by the mission of Sphinx, the mission of EXIGENCE is to promote excellence and diversity through choral music within Black and Latinx communities by creating a platform for soloists and composers of color while inspiring and challenging audiences.

Prior to the UMS and Kennedy Center concerts, SphinxConnect, the largest and longest-standing convening dedicated to inclusion in classical music, will take place in Detroit Thursday, January 26 through Saturday, January 28. The 2023 SphinxConnect convening, titled "IMPACT," will be held in-person, while offering digital access to community members across the globe. SphinxConnect will feature 90 speakers participating in over 30 sessions designed to inspire and ignite action and spark collaboration. The Closing Plenary speaker will be celebrated mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. The full schedule will be announced in the fall.

The Sphinx Competition-the event that began Sphinx's journey-will see the semi-finalists gathering in Detroit from Wednesday, January 25 to Saturday, January 28 over which time the six finalists will be selected. The competition culminates in the Finals Concert at Orchestra Hall in Detroit on Saturday, January 28 at 7:30 p.m. when finalists from the Junior Division (ages 17 and under) and Senior Division (ages 18 to 30) perform with the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra for a panel of internationally renowned judges. Prizes range from $3,000 to the top $50,000 Robert Frederick Smith Prize. Sphinx Competition laureates have gone on to study at prestigious music schools and perform as soloists and with major symphony orchestras and ensembles across the country, fulfilling its founding vision.

As part of their prize, Sphinx Competition First Place laureates in both the junior and senior divisions are booked for professional engagements throughout the country. Concerts in the 2022-23 season feature: violinists Amaryn Olmeda (2021 - Junior Division), Jonathan Okseniuk (2022 - Junior Division), Rubén Rengel (2018 - Senior Division), Samuel Abraham Vargas Teixeira (2021 - Senior Division), and Adé Williams (2012 - Junior Division); cellists Ifetayo Ali-Landing (2017 - Junior Division), Sterling Elliott (2019 - Senior Division), Gabriel Martins (2020 - Senior Division) and Thomas Mesa (2016 - Senior Division); and double bassist Kebra-Seyoun Charles (2022 - Senior Division). (Sphinx Laureates concert calendar follows below.)

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