Sphinx Organization Announces SphinxConnect: Impact and Sphinx Competition in Detroit

The event will run January 26-28, 2023.

By: Dec. 06, 2022
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Sphinx Organization Announces SphinxConnect: Impact and Sphinx Competition in Detroit

Sphinx Organization, the largest and longest-standing convening dedicated to diversity and inclusion in classical music, celebrates its 25th anniversary this season, anchored by its annual convening, SphinxConnect: Impact, and the Sphinx Competition in Detroit, MI, January 26-28, 2023. A few days later, the Sphinx Organization's Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and EXIGENCE Vocal Ensemble, led by Tito Muñoz and Eugene Rogers and joined by 2023 Sphinx Medal of Excellence Honoree Aundi Marie Moore, make featured debuts at University Musical Society (Jan. 29) and The Kennedy Center (Jan. 31).

Sphinx began in 1997 as a singular initiative: the Sphinx Competition for young Black and Latinx string players. The goal of founder, violinist Aaron Dworkin, was to identify, empower, and support talented young artists and prepare them for professional careers in classical music. Over the past 25 years, Sphinx has grown from a single program to a movement that promotes artistic excellence and inclusion across the sector, through year-round tuition-free education and creative youth development; 4 premier ensembles and a robust roster of soloists; commissioning and performing new works by Black and Latinx composers; administrative leadership, cultural innovation, and entrepreneurship programs; and sector-wide partnerships with 300+ organizations to serve the field and bring programming to scale. The organization is now led by Afa S. Dworkin, its long-time Artistic Director, as well as 10 full-time staff members, 50+ teaching artists and seasonal teams, 1,000 alumni, more than $10 million invested in Black and Latinx musicians through artist grants and scholarships, and 2 million annual audiences.

From January 26-28, 2023, Sphinx welcomes hundreds of musicians, industry leaders, educators, funders, diversity advocates, and administrators to Detroit's Marriott Renaissance Center for SphinxConnect: Impact. The convening features 30 sessions and more than 100 speakers - comprised of the top luminaries among classical music's artistic administrators, composers, and performers - including Denyce Graves, Damien Sneed, Michael R. Jackson, Shanta Thake, composers Valerie Coleman and Jessie Montgomery, members of PUBLIQuartet, leaders of the United States' top conservatories, and many more. To prevent barriers of access, while SphinxConnect: Impact will take place in-person, most of the sessions will be live-streamed through a virtual platform to attendees who wish to attend virtually.

Highlights of the conference include panels such as Genres Aside, post-genre realities of today's stages; Inner Voices, bridging the gap between C-suite and middle management; and Innovate, Activate, Impact: 5/10/25, a radically simple approach to out-of-the-box systemic change. The morning continues with Show Me the Money, an honest discussion about pay equity; Let's Talk Healthy Souls, best practices for artistic administrations to address mental health in their organizations; and Pedagogy of the Oppressed, instruction as an equity and trauma-informed teacher. The afternoon launches with Please Don't Go, how to retain talented leaders of color in administrative roles; Keeping Up with Composers, how organizations can foster healthy artistic relationships with composers of color; Beyond the Jargon, pipelines, pathways, their myths and realities; Pathways, Runways, and Onramps, how to maximize the impact of prep programs at colleges and conservatories; and Linchpins, Dischords, and Grand Finales, orchestra committees and their influence over social norms.

Day two of SphinxConnect: Impact 2023 opens with Voices in Residence, maintaining your unique cultural identity as a composer in an oversimplified world; My Crystal Ball, chasing the visions of grantees and grantors; Fierce Leaders, a conversation about leadership as a female conductor of color; Beyond Price and Still, going beyond formulative change and redefining the Western Canon; and Canon Next, asking "how does one navigate the how, when and why of composing careers?." The afternoon's panels include You're Hired: Now What?, personnel managers and artists on how to retain talent in orchestras; Remember Me to the Chambers, the impact of chamber music and its vision ahead; What's Real?, myths and truths of a non-traditional, portfolio career in the 21st century; Ending the Musical Chairs, how to bring about systemic change through org hiring practices; Interdisciplinary Musings, the past and future of cross-disciplinary collaborations; and Navigating the Matrix, strategies, philosophies, and tools for college students, faculty, and administrators from underrepresented communities. The convening closes with a plenary featuring American playwright, composer, and lyricist, Michael R. Jackson in conversation with Sphinx Organization's founder, Aaron Dworkin. The full conference schedule is available at www.SphinxConnect.org.

On January 28, 2023 at 7:30pm ET in Detroit Symphony Hall, Sphinx hosts the final round of the Sphinx Competition, 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. Finalists in both the Junior (Ages 17 and under) and Senior (Ages 18-30) divisions have the opportunity to perform with the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and compete for a total of nearly $100,000 in prizes, including the top Robert Frederick Smith Prize. All semi-finalists and finalists have access to scholarships and fine instruments through the Sphinx Music Assistance Fund. The live concert will be televised by Detroit Public Television and live-streamed on the Sphinx Organization's website and Facebook. Former laureates of the Sphinx Competition include artists such as Joseph Conyers, Sterling Elliott, Randall Goosby, Tai Murray, and Elena Urioste, all of whom have gone on to major orchestral and solo careers.

The Sphinx Symphony Orchestra (SSO) is a unique all Black and Latinx orchestra comprised of top professionals from around the country. The SSO includes past and current members of the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Met Opera Orchestra, Detroit, Atlanta, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Puerto Rico Symphonies, as well as faculty members of leading music institutions, including Peabody and New England Conservatories, Harlem School of the Arts, Rutgers University, and the University of Michigan. The SSO, alongside Sphinx's EXIGENCE Vocal Ensemble, will embark on a tour to the University Musical Society on January 29, 2023 and The Kennedy Center on January 31, 2023, led by Tito Muñoz and joined by 2023 Sphinx Medal of Excellence Honoree Aundi Marie Moore. The program includes works by Carlos Simon, Valerie Coleman, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Michael Abels, Carlos Cordero, and Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, a moving work composed by Joel Thompson and conducted by Eugene Rogers, Artistic Director of the Washington Chorus, quoting the last words of seven African-American men killed by police or authority figures.


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