Carnegie Hall to showcase young minority musicians

DETROIT — On Dec. 8 at 8:00 p.m., the Sphinx Organization will present its Inaugural Gala Concert at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. This unique concert will feature a chamber orchestra comprising the top alumni of the first seven years of the Sphinx Competition, along with solo appearances by the Junior Laureates.

The Sphinx Organization is a national nonprofit founded in 1996 by Aaron P. Dworkin. He started playing violin at age 5, finished high school at Interlochen, and went on to complete masters in violin performance at the University of Michigan.

During his music education, he often found himself in orchestras where he was either the only minority or one of only a handful. Dworkin founded the Detroit-based Sphinx to help change this situation, to overcome the cultural stereotype of classical music, and to address the isolation and limited access that young Blacks and Latinos face in the classical music world.

Guillermo Figueroa, music director of the Puerto Rico and New Mexico Symphony Orchestras, told the Detroit Free Press last February that the work of Dworkin and Sphinx offer “a really meaningful way of breaking the stereotypes that so often confront minority musicians.”

“I’m Puerto Rican, and I’ve had to deal with these perceptions myself,” said Figueroa. “How many Puerto Ricans do you see giving recitals? I lived in New York for 32 years, from age 17, and I know firsthand that people don’t take you seriously. It would have been OK if I’d wanted to play baseball,” the conductor said.

“If a young minority musician from Detroit wants to become a violinist, what chance does he or she have? It’s not about a lack of talent. What the Sphinx Competition is doing couldn’t possibly be more important.”

Sphinx alumni have appeared as soloists with orchestras around the country, including the Philadelphia, Atlanta, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh symphonies, as well as the Boston Pops. They also have and continue to pursue their studies at the nation’s top music institutions, including the Curtis Institute, Juilliard School, Harvard University, and the New England Conservatory.