The Sphinx Organization: Democratizing Classical Music


By Trevor Neilson

I don't often write about the arts, but an announcement this week is cause for real excitement -- not only because of the entertainment it will provide to the audiences lucky enough to see it, but because of the way it will transform those who perform.

This week IMG Artists, a global leader in the performing arts and lifestyle events management, announced a new partnership with the Sphinx Organization, a non-profit working to transform lives through the power of diversity in the arts. The partnership will promote Sphinx's mission and values via IMG Artists' global network of events and projects, including a Sphinx Symphony Orchestra residency at this year's Napa Valley Festival del Sole. The IMG-produced Festival, currently in its ninth year, will be held July 11 through July 20, 2014 in California's Napa Valley, and will feature three performances by the Sphinx Symphony and Sphinx Virtuosi.

Sphinx is an arts organization unlike any other. Founded by violinist Dr. Aaron Dworkin (President Obama's First Appointee to the National Council on the Arts), it is focused on transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Through its educational and artistic programming, Sphinx reaches over 20,000 young people and over 2 million in live and broadcast audiences. The critically-acclaimed Sphinx Symphony is the only all Black and Latino orchestra in the world comprised of top classical musicians and includes members of the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Met Opera Orchestra and the Detroit, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Puerto Rico symphonies.

But Sphinx isn't just about helping and underrepresented groups make amazing music. Barrett Wissman, Festival del Sole Artistic Director and Co-Chairman of IMG Artists pointed out that the critical social issues Sphinx is helping address saying:

Education and equality in the arts has been shown to improve academic outcomes, promote higher career goals and deepen civic engagement. Yet, funding for and access to the arts is, increasingly, the domain of an exclusive class. This trend threatens to both inhibit the progress and development of some of our most talented youth and further diminish the already dwindling audience base for culture. Aaron Dworkin and the Sphinx Organization are guiding lights promoting equality, access, and education for those who wouldn't otherwise have the same opportunities.

Far too many of America's arts organizations that are living in the past. The exclusivity of many deters some of America's best artists from contributing their work, and deters many audiences from enjoying artistic expression that represents all of America. Sphinx is starting to change that, and it's about time.

This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post