Today I have the precious opportunity to interview Afa Dworkin, and talk to her about the Sphinx Organization.
When was Sphinx born and why it has this name?
It was founded in 1997. The name Sphinx, inspired by the mythical creature and legendary statue, reflects the power, wisdom, and persistence that characterize Sphinx’s participants, as well as the enigmatic and interpretive nature of music and art.
Who had the idea of creating this organization?
Sphinx was founded by Aaron P. Dworkin with the goal of addressing the underrepresentation of people of color in classical music. Aaron P. Dworkin is an American violinist and music educator. He served as dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD), which is ranked among the top-performing arts schools in the nation. But he is currently a tenured full professor of arts leadership and entrepreneurship at SMTD as well as serving as a Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
Who worked with him for the realization of the project?
Currently, I serve as President and Artistic Director of the Sphinx Organization and I need to oversee all fundraising, strategic and artistic initiatives through which Sphinx expands access to classical music education and supports a national roster of distinguished musicians of color. We have expanded the organization’s international partner network to 50+ foundations. Our national artistic network has also grown to 60+ symphony orchestras, enabling Sphinx to continue scaling its programming to new audiences worldwide.
How did you manage to turn the idea into reality?
Initially, by building the Sphinx Competition and its associated programs, which focused on empowering young people, and their career development, and eventually, through building upon the early successes and bringing the work to scale through partnerships with more than 100 partners nationally.
What were the main difficulties to overcome and what were the most important results achieved?
Building an enterprise from scratch, with a mission that was unique and urgent. Finding the resources and support to do so was the most challenging aspect of the work.
How Sphinx is organized now?
Please see the incredible family of leaders who carry out Sphinx’s work on a day-to-day basis at this link. But, in the words one of our artists from the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, Rosalyn Storry “Sphinx is more than an organization: it’s a movement… Musicians of color may be isolated on their various cultural islands, the ‘only one’ in their sometimes lonely outposts. But through Sphinx, these artists are not only propelled by the energy and encouragement of community but are buoyed by an opportunity to shine that hardly exists anywhere else”.
What are the current activities of Sphinx Organization?
Sphinx works to address its mission of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts through year-round educational work, programs in arts leadership, artist development and presentation. To learn more about our programming, which reaches 2 million in live and broadcast audiences and 10.000 young people across the US, you can see the PROGRAMS section of our website.
Which of its activities may be particularly interesting for a cellist?
The work through our Sphinx Virtuosi, SphinxConnect, SOPA, NAAS, as well as the new Catalog of Latin-American Cello Works, a collection of works by Latin composers directly relevant to cellists.
What are the dreams for the future of the organization?
Inspiring our partners and the overall field to initiate and conduct the work that empowers diversity and inclusion directly… Bringing our work to scale so that classical music is reflective of our communities is the ultimate dream.
Thank you very much! I wish your dream, day by day, continue to become reality!