STERLING ELLIOT CLIP
My name is Sterling Elliott, I’m a cellist, studying at Juilliard right now, and recently, in February, I just won first place at the Sphinx competition.
Nineteen year old Sterling Elliott dropped by the WQXR studios recently, to tell us about his big win with the Sphinx Competition. I’m Jeff Spurgeon. “Sphinx” is an organization founded in 1997 with the goal of changing the underrepresentation of people of color in classical music. Their mission statement is: Transforming lives through the power of diversity in the Arts.
They mentor musicians of color in areas of performance, music education, repertoire, and in navigating the business side of the music business.
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“Growing up for me, I really did not get to see other people that looked like me, doing what I was doing. Maybe, that you know, the career is just isn’t for people like me. So Sphinx really, reassured that that is definitely not the case, and showed me amazing musicians that are just like me doing just absolutely fantastic things, showing me that it’s absolutely possible for me to be successful and… And do what I like to do in this field whether we were the minority or not.”
Sterling Elliott won first prize at the annual Sphinx competition held in Detroit this year, in the Senior Division – for 18 to 30 year old musicians. He also won the Audience Choice Award this year! And they weren’t his first Sphinx awards either. Sphinx has a Junior Division – which Sterling won in 2014! During the next hour, we’ll hear performances from 3 winners of the Sphinx Competition, but we’ll begin with Sterling Elliott. Here he is, in a recording made by WQXR, playing the third movement of Gaspar Cassadó’s Suite for Solo Cello.
Suite for Cello Solo, 3rd Movement – Gaspar Cassadó - 6:00
From the Suite for Solo Cello by the Catalan composer Gaspar Cassadó, we heard the 3rd movement, performed by Sterling Elliott – 2019 winner of the Sphinx Competition. We’ll share more of Elliott’s visit to WQXR a little bit later in this program.
Right now we’ll hear from another Sphinx winner – this time a double bassist! Xavier Foley was the 2014 winner of the Sphinx Competition in the Senior division. A graduate of the Curtis Institute, Foley has gone onto an impressive career including: performing as a soloist with the Nashville Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Foley is also a composer, and we’re going to hear a few works written by him. The first piece is called “Irish Fantasy”. It’s based on an Irish folk tune called “The Clergyman’s Lament”. “Irish Fantasy” arranged and performed by bassist Xavier Foley.
Irish Fantasy for Violin and Bass – Xavier Foley - 4:40
Bassist Xavier Foley performing “Irish Fantasy”, his own composition with roots in an 18th century Irish folk song.
I’m Jeff Spurgeon. We’re listening to a program highlighting recent winners of the Sphinx Competition. We continue now with another piece by Foley, who is also the featured composer for the upcoming Sphinx Virtuosi tour. Sphinx Virtuosi is a chamber orchestra comprised of some top Black and Latino soloists! And here is another Xavier Foley composition – “Gravity Waltz”, performed by Foley with pianist Kelly Lin.
Gravity Waltz – Xavier Foley - 2:30
That piece is called “Gravity Waltz”, composed and performed by bassist Xavier Foley, the pianist was Kelly Lin. We have one more performance by this 2014 Sphinx Competition Winner – the music this time is by the Austrian composer and bassist Johannes Sperger. It’s the “Bass Sonata in
B Minor” - and again, pianist Kelly Lin joins bassist Xavier Foley.
Bass Sonata in B Minor – Johannes Sperger - 7:30
Bassist Xavier Foley and pianist Kelly Lin performing Johannes Sperger’s Bass Sonata in B Minor.
This hour we’re celebrating winners of the Sphinx Competition - the annual program providing opportunities for classical musicians of color. In the second half of this program, more from this year’s winner, and we’ll also meet violinist Elena Uriste.
I’m Jeff Spurgeon, and this program is a production of WQXR in New York.
We’re listening to a program highlighting recent winners of the Sphinx Competition.
Our next featured artist is Elena Urioste. An American violinist who has won the Sphinx Competition in both the Junior Division and Senior Division. She’s also won Sphinx Medal of Excellence. In addition to her performing career, which has taken Elena Urioste all over the world, she runs a music festival, as well as yoga and music retreats. She’s even acted in independent films!
We’re going to hear music from her most recent CD titled “Estrellita” (ehs stray ee tah) Here is the title track – Manual Ponce’s ‘little star’. Violinist Elena Urioste and pianist Tom Poster (PAW ster ).
Estrellita – Manual Ponce - 3:05
Violinist Elena Urioste and pianist Tom Poster performing a work by Manual Ponce – his “Estrellita” – ‘little star’.
Elena Urioste has won several awards from the Sphinx organization; The Junior Division award in 2003, the Senior Division award in 2007 and in 2012 the Medal of Excellence given to, as the award says: “extraordinary emerging classical artists of color who, early in their professional career, demonstrate qualities of artistic excellence, outstanding work ethic, a spirit of determination, and ongoing commitment to leadership.”
We’ll hear more from Elena in just a bit, but now let’s return to our 2019 Sphinx winner, Sterling Elliott. He comes from a musical family. In fact, he was only 3 when he got his first cello:
STERLING ELLIOT CLIP :35 in
“I was told by my mom that when I was in the womb, she had a cello waiting for me, it was destined before I was even born, It was I believe a 16th size cello so 16th a size of a full size cello. I think my mom told me I broke it in the first couple of weeks. I think she told me I like broke the neck off by accident, by purp… I don’t know if it was on purpose or accident. My brother started at 3, my sister started at 2. My mom she’s great with starting people really young. And then we started our family quartet when I turned 5 years old.”
Joining his mother, brother and sister, Cellist Sterling Elliott completed the Sterling Family Quartet!
On his recent visit to WQXR, Sterling Elliott, now 19 years old, played the first movement of Robert Schumann’s “Cello Concerto”, marked – Nicht zu schnell – ‘Not too fast’. He played it not too fast with pianist Luis Ortiz.
Cello Concerto – Robert Schumann - 10:30
That’s the 2019 winner of the Sphinx Competition – 19 year old cellist Sterling Elliott performing there with pianist Luis Ortiz in a recording made in the studios of WQXR.
We’ll hear more from Sterling Elliot in just a bit, but now let’s go back to violinist Elena Urioste, who’s won several awards from the Sphinx Foundation.
One of the required pieces for performers in the Sphinx Competition was “Mother and Child” by composer William Grant Still, and the work has stayed with her so much, that Elena recorded it on her CD “Estrellita.”
Here she is with pianist Tom Poster (PAW ster). “Mother and Child” by William Grant Still.
Mother and Child – William Grant Still - 6:30
Violinist Elena Urioste, a multi-prize winner from the Sphinx Foundation, performing William Grant Still’s “Mother and Child” with pianist Tom Poster.
We’re listening to a special hour of music from Sphinx Competition, featuring winners past and present. I’m Jeff Spurgeon.
We have one more performance by this year’s winner – cellist Sterling Elliott. We mentioned that Sterling visited our studios, to talk and to play, and his mom was there too, listening to his interview and we decided to have her join the conversation. Sterling is the youngest of her 3 children, and it was her vision to have them all learn to play, and learn to play well.
DANIELLE ELLIOTT CLIP :26 in
“I introduced it to them very early, before they knew how to say no, and had no idea what type of success rate we would have with it, but I didn’t really care, I just wanted them to be able to appreciate the music, they didn’t have to become professionals, just being able to appreciate classical music and being able to love it, even if they were just in the audience appreciating it, I would be fine with that.''
That’s Danielle Elliott – the woman who made it all happen for 19 year old Sphinx Competition winner – Sterling Elliott, which is to say, she’s his mom.
We have one more performance on this program highlighting winners of the Sphinx Competition – Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo Variations” performed by Sterling Elliott with pianist Luis Ortiz.
Rococo Variations – Tchaikovsky - 10:30
Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations performed in the WQXR studio by the 2019 Sphinx Competition winner cellist Sterling Elliott playing there with pianist Luis Ortiz.
Thanks to our colleagues at the Sphinx Organization and to our recording engineer, Irene Trudel. WQXR’s production team includes Eileen Delahunty and Curtis Macdonald. I’m Jeff Spurgeon, this program is a production of WQXR in New York.
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