Sphinx Organization: Change for good


For the past quarter-century the Sphinx Organization has worked tirelessly to bring much-needed diversity to the US classical music scene. Bruce Hodges examines its achievements, and hears from its founder and its president about the future

‘Classical music is both for us, and by us,’ says Aaron P. Dworkin, founder of the Sphinx Organization, which for the past 26 years has been dedicated to increasing the numbers of black and Latinx musicians in classical music. ‘I was working on my degree at the University of Michigan, and I went into a lesson one day and my teacher said, “How would you like to play music by black composers?” I never knew there were black composers until that moment,’ he recalls. ‘I was often the only child of colour playing the violin while growing up.’

From that simple observation came ambition coupled with imagination, and in 1997 Dworkin founded the Sphinx Organization in Detroit, Michigan. Over the past quarter-century the organisation, which began as a competition for string players, has spread its reach into all aspects of the US classical music industry and beyond, with initiatives including youth development, a professional symphony orchestra, string and vocal ensembles, and arts leadership programmes. These days, the efforts are led by Afa Dworkin, also a violinist (and Aaron’s wife), who is propelling the organisation into the future…

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