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When it comes to music, the city of Detroit has an undeniably rich heritage. Whether it’s the reverberating Motown sound, the steady pulse of house music, multi-layered Dilla beats or the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s community-centric approach to classical, jazz and pops, Detroit’s musical influence spans genres. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Southeast Michigan is home to the Sphinx Organization, a nationally-recognized organization whose mission is to expose diverse populations to the world of classical music, further differentiating the art world.   

Sphinx celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Over the past two decades, they have become a part of Detroit’s musical legacy, intrinsically linked to music education, artist development and a commitment to diversifying the arts. In November 2016, the organization was honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House with a 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award

SphinxConnect graphic1One platform through which they share their message of diversity and inclusion in the arts is through their annual SphinxConnect conference, running from February 9-12 at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. SphinxConnect allows developing classical musicians to interact, collaborate and learn with professional musicians who are well established in the industry. Attendees of SphinxConnect will have the chance to participate in numerous networking opportunities, sessions about growing diversity in classical music and lectures about the business side to the music industry. There will also be the chance to watch competition performances by current students, including the Sphinx Competition concerts, their annual performance for Black and Latino string players. Open to middle school, high school and college musicians, the purpose of the competition is to inspire, cultivate and acknowledge the classical music talent across the United States.  

According to Sphinx president and artistic director Afa S. Dworkin, “Sphinx’s charge is transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. It is not to specifically serve a particular group, but rather, to help build a pipeline, which then ensures that our field is reflective of and enriched by our communities.”

Highlights of this year’s SphinxConnect will include a discussion from academic race critic Melissa Harris-Perry with Sphinx founder and dean of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance Aaron Dworkin on the future of diversity in the arts; the legendary soprano Martina Arroyo; master classes from internationally renowned string players Dimitri Murrath and Pamela Frank; and the art of networking from UMS president Ken Fischer. SphinxConnect presents the chance to bring those genuinely interested in classical music together to think critically and learn about the classical music industry. Sunday, February 12th, is the Sphinx Competition Finals Concert, providing a chance for all participants to come together, listen to exceptional music and support some of the most talented young classical musicians. 

Afa Dworkin described SphinxConnect as “the epicenter for artists and leaders who share a genuine interest in inclusion. The purpose of SphinxConnect is to establish a conduit between the greatest diverse talent in our country and leaders in the industry,” she explained. In looking ahead to SphinxConnect, Dworkin is most excited about “the performances, but also, to hearing hundreds of artists tell us their journeys and talk about the impact that we can all collectively have if we work together. I look forward to the conversations, as that is the greatest element of fellowship and moving things forward.”Competition 2017 collage

To see the full schedule of events for SphinxConnect, or register, click here.