Monday, September 10, 2007

Aaron Dworkin, Founder/President of Sphinx Organization, Born Sept. 11, 1970

(Photo: Aaron Dworkin & Trevor Ochieng, 2004 1st place Jr. Division Laureate, Sphinx Competition)

Aaron Paul Dworkin was born in Monticello, New York on Sept. 11, 1970 to White and Black parents. At the age of two weeks he was adopted by a White couple in New York City. He began playing the violin at age five. When Aaron was 10, the family moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania, which had only one Black family. Racism made life difficult for him there. He graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, and received his Bachelor of Music and Masters of Music in Violin Performance from the University of Michigan.

He was often the only student of color in a Violin class. It was not until college that he was introduced to the rich classical repertoire of Black composers such as William Grant Still. He decided one way to bring about racial diversity in the study, performance and enjoyment of classical music was to help young string students of color prepare for careers as performers in major orchestras. In 1996, while still a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Aaron became Founder and President of the Sphinx Organization, which organized a national competition for Black and Latino string students. That is why he is honored as a Musician of African Descent at the website

With the support of JPMorganChase,
Dworkin guided the organization through its 10th Annual Sphinx Competition in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Feb. 7-11 2007. The organization's home page is, which sets out its mission: “Sphinx envisions a world in which classical music reflects cultural diversity and plays a role in the everyday lives of youth”. This uplifting goal is a powerful invitation for Black and Latino students, and for students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, to enrich their lives with classical music. For children, is a collection of interactive resources such as Minorities on Stage, Orchestration Station, String Instrument Gallery, Music Match – Composers, and Music Match – Instruments.

Recognition has come in many forms, such as: 2006 Newsweek Giving Back Award; 2005 MacArthur Fellowship or “Genius Grant”; 2005 National Governors Award; 2003 Michigan Governor's Award; and selection as 2003 Michiganian of the Year, by
The Detroit News.

Dworkin has served on the Boards of Directors of the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, ArtServe Michigan, Walnut Hill School, and WRCJ-FM Public Radio in Detroit. He has been a speaker on the topic of diversity in the arts at national conferences of the American Symphony Orchestra League, Suzuki Association, Guild of Community Schools of the Arts, and National Association of Negro Musicians.

Aaron's personal website,, includes this observation: “
As a musician and a writer, I have experienced the power that the arts possess to bridge racial and cultural divides and touch a mosaic of people from differing backgrounds and communities."

Radio host Dick Gordon interviewed him in detail on the American Public Media program The Story, Feb. 16, 2007. The 50-minute broadcast Music for All is an intimate conversation which includes excerpts of classical works of William Grant Still, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn. It is still available in the program archives. Among the most recent press coverage is a video clip of Aaron speaking at Chatauqua on Aug. 22, 2007, on the topic: “Music: Heart, Soul and Dollar”.

“The Sphinx Laureates at Carnegie Hall” will be presented on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007 by JPMorgan Chase, featuring the nation's top young Black and Latino string players. Music critic Anthony Tommasini reviewed last year's concert at Carnegie Hall in The New York Times, Oct. 27, 2006:

The concert at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday evening offered typical fare: a string chamber orchestra playing works by Mozart, Villa-Lobos and others. But the audience, far from the typical classical music crowd, was overwhelmingly black and Latino, and most were children. Onstage as well, all the players were young black and Latino musicians. It was a sight you rarely encounter at Carnegie Hall.”

It is also a sight made possible by the vision and leadership of the Founder/President of the Sphinx Organization. Happy Birthday, Aaron!

No comments: