Sphinx Organization Gets $4 Million Gift to Diversify Classical Music

Thursday, January 09, 2014 - 02:00 PM

The Sphinx Organization, a nonprofit that works to boost African-American participation in classical music, has received $4 million from an anonymous donor.

The donation will be used to bolster the Detroit-based organization’s educational and training programs, which aim to assist African-American and Latino musicians on career paths in classical music, a field that has often been historically slow to bring these groups into the fold.

The donation comes as Sphinx prepares for its flagship event, an annual competition in February for young string players. The organization said the money will allow it to increase the scholarship awards for the top winners to between $5,000 and $50,000 (the previous top award was $10,000).

Sphinx is also creating a training program for emerging conductors of color in cooperation with several major orchestras. Its budget will increase to $4.6 million this year, from $3.4 million in 2013.

In October, Sphinx Organization president and founder Aaron Dworkin gave a sharp critique of the orchestra field in a speech at Carnegie Hall, saying that symphonies aren't doing nearly enough to diversify their ranks through recruitment or fellowship programs. About four percent of orchestra players in the U.S. are black and Latino.

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Comments [5]

Dan Harrison from Briarcliff Manor NY

A key way in which classical ensembles, from chmber to symphony, can increasde theirb appeal and attract more players and attendees lf color woule be to make progfams less stuffy, I like Mozart, Bach, Schubert, et. al. as much as anyone, but more is needed to attract audiences.

Jan. 11 2014 05:22 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

"Diversity" is simply a CODE word for putting the interests of one group ahead of another. This country should be color blind and people should excel based on their skills, education and hard work, and for no other reason. A student with lower GPA or lower MCAT score should not be able to gain entrance to any United States educational facility, or employment, ahead of a student with higher grades. "Diversity" is nothing more than "homogenization" and lowers the standards of excellence in this country. The so called "War on Poverty" is 50 years old, and many of its aspects have done little if anything to eliminate poverty in the United States, in fact things have gotten worse.
Until the out of wedlock birth rate in some communities decreases from over 75%, and fathers take responsibility for their children things will continue to decline.
Let's be a color blind and personally responsible nation as we should be.
God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Jan. 11 2014 10:39 AM
D. R. Greene from Philly metro

As a long-term follower and supporter of Sphinx Organization's purpose, I wish to say Thank You to this unnamed benefactor and to founder Aaron Dworkin.
I also put forth a summary of my thinking toward diversity and classical music.
Here in the U.S. we have seen positive, profound social and cultural change since the 60's March on Washington and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, our world of Classical Music is one of the few remaining societal entities showing little to no substantive progress.
Even with stated "good intent" (which includes vocal, chamber and orchestral music) - there is not so much to show. Why? Things have moved in stops and starts; and have moved in slow motion or, sometimes, no motion. In my judgment, this is not a suitable history.
Classical music operations; overall, and throughout our history, need a careful, honest self-assessment especially during the more recent 15 to 20 years.
And in looking forward, each entity and program need a clear and coordinated approach that embraces diversity/inclusivity with multi-tier action including: ● performers on stage, ● audience & listeners, ● communication & media, ● repertoire & composers, ● personnel & volunteers, ● venues, ● marketing, ● training & education, ● boards & committees, ● presenters,● funders, collaborators, ● plans & goals.
Improvement is needed and I shall welcome it all.

Jan. 10 2014 05:48 PM
David from Flushing

What this group carefully avoids mentioning is the obviously fact that various groups have their own music traditions and that these do not always include European Classical Music. Among whites, classical music appeals to perhaps around 10% at best. There is likely an even smaller percentage among other groups. We might want to reverse the question at hand and ask why are some groups "over represented" in classical music such as Asians and Jews? There is also the question of why should we encourage people to enter a field with fewer and fewer job opportunities?

Jan. 10 2014 08:50 AM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

I know some white and oriental young people in Detroit who would also like to excell in the study of classical music. I wonder if the Sphinx Organization would allow them or if they have a "no whites or orientals allowed" policy.
Would it not be wonderful if we had a color blind society, but it seems that those who scream most for non discrimination policies are more than willing to discriminate themselves. What a sad state of affairs. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Jan. 09 2014 06:56 PM

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