Sphinx Virtuosi, one of the nation’s most dynamic chamber orchestras, composed of Black and Latinx classical soloists, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Music Dean Brian Cole has announced.
Each fall, alumni of the internationally renowned Sphinx Competition come together to perform throughout the country as cultural ambassadors, with appearances that annually include the New World Center in Miami and sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York, where their performances earn outstanding reviews from The New York Times.
Sphinx Virtuosi and the Sphinx Competition are programs of the Detroit-based Sphinx Organization, dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. The organization’s founding and mission were informed by the life experiences of Aaron Dworkin, who, as a young Black violinist, was acutely aware of the lack of diversity both on stage and in the audience in concert halls. He founded Sphinx while an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan to address the stark under-representation of people of color in classical music. Acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma is special artistic adviser to the Sphinx Organization.
Cole said he’s been inspired and impressed by the Sphinx Organization since he was a doctoral student and encountered colleagues who were alumni of the program.
“Our industry – particularly as it relates to the classical music industry – has a huge diversity problem,” Cole said. “No other organization in the country (or perhaps the world) is doing a better job of addressing the roots of that problem than the Sphinx Organization.”
As UNCSA looks to do our part in promoting diversity in the music industry and creating more opportunities for all young artists, we look to Sphinx for their leadership and hope this visit is the beginning of an ongoing partnership.Music Dean Brian Cole
Cole said what started as a competition for young Black and Latinx artists is now a robust nonprofit that impacts multiple areas of the industry by supporting education, artist development, and industry leadership through strong promotion of diversity in the arts.
“As UNCSA looks to do our part in promoting diversity in the music industry and creating more opportunities for all young artists, we look to Sphinx for their leadership and hope this visit is the beginning of an ongoing partnership,” Cole added.
Cole said he hopes such a partnership would result in UNCSA students entering the Sphinx Competition. It would also put UNCSA School of Music on the radar for other competitors who want to train at a top-notch conservatory with world-class faculty artists.
Though he’s not aware of any Sphinx alumni among the current Music faculty and students, Cole pointed to Vice Chancellor for Advancement Edward J. Lewis, who was a professional violist for many years and performed with the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra.
(Performing with Sphinx) allowed me to foster new relationships and reconnect with my peer group of unique professional musicians of color from across the country, and serve as a mentor and role model for the next generation of young Black and Latinx artists through the Sphinx Competition.Vice Chancellor for Advancement Edward J. Lewis
“I was honored to be a member,” said Lewis, who also performed with Dallas Opera Orchestra, the Dallas Chamber Orchestra, Santa Fe Pro Musica, and the Toledo Symphony. “It allowed me to foster new relationships and reconnect with my peer group of unique professional musicians of color from across the country, and serve as a mentor and role model for the next generation of young Black and Latinx artists through the Sphinx Competition.”
Music Without Borders, the tour’s 2018 program, illuminates works by composers from communities searching for harmony and separated by time, distance, hardship and conflict. The tour will include works by Emmy-nominated Syrian-American composer Kareem Roustom, Dmitri Shostakovich, Gaspar Cassadó, and features a newly commissioned work by Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard.
The Music Without Borders program will include selected repertoire from among the following:
The Sphinx Virtuosi is one of the nation's most dynamic professional chamber orchestras, composed of 18 of the nation's top Black and Latinx classical soloists. Alumni of the internationally renowned Sphinx Competition come together each fall as cultural ambassadors to reach new audiences.
This unique ensemble earned rave reviews from The New York Times during its highly acclaimed debut at Carnegie Hall in December 2004. Allan Kozinn described their performance as “first-rate in every way” and said “the ensemble produced a more beautiful, precise and carefully shaped sound than some fully professional orchestras that come through Carnegie Hall in the course of the year.”
The Sphinx Virtuosi have returned to Carnegie Hall annually since 2006 performing to sold-out halls and earning outstanding reviews from The New York Times each year.
At once a bridge between minority communities and the classical music establishment, the Sphinx Virtuosi continue to garner critical acclaim during their annual national tours to many of the leading venues around the country.
Inspired by Sphinx’s overarching mission, the Sphinx Virtuosi works to advance diversity in classical music while engaging young and new audiences through performances of varied repertoire. Masterpieces by Bach, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi and Mozart are performed alongside the more seldom presented works by composers of color, including Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, George Walker, Michael Abels, and Astor Piazzolla.
Members of the Sphinx Virtuosi have performed as soloists with America's major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras. Members also hold professional orchestral positions, and several have been named laureates of other prestigious international competitions, including the Queen Elizabeth and Yehudi Menuhin. Roster members have completed and continue to pursue their advanced studies at the nation’s top music schools.
The Sphinx Virtuosi’s first recording was released in 2011 on the White Pine label and features music of Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Gabriela Lena Frank and George Walker.
October 02, 2018