Monday, February 8, 2010

Detroit News: 'Young musicians impress in Sphinx Competition at Orchestra Hall'

[Gareth Johnson, 24, of Wellington, Fla., took first place in the Sphinx Competition for String Players. (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)]
February 08, 2010

“String contest boosts Latino, black players

Oralandar Brand-Williams / The Detroit News
Detroit -- Sounds of classical music filled Orchestra Hall on Sunday as young musicians from around the country competed in the 13th Annual Sphinx Competition for young black and Latino string players.” “The top three contenders in the senior division and the winner of the junior division performed in the Finals Concert at Orchestra Hall, bringing the audience to its feet several times for for the classical music offerings of Mozart, Saint-Saens, Bartok and Abels.

“Twenty-four-year-old Gareth Johnson of Wellington, Fla., took first place in the senior competition. The second-place winner was 20-year-old Paul Laraia of Boston; and John Sanderson, a 20-year-old Indiana resident, finished third. Thirteen-year-old Randall Goosby of Bartlett, Tenn., won first prize in the junior division of the national competition. He received $5,000 and a chance to perform with several national orchestras.

The young musicians performed before a sold-out crowd of an estimated 1,800 people. Johnson, who has performed as a soloist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, said he felt 'on top of the world' from Sunday's win, which includes a record contract. 'I've been planning for this for two years,' said Johnson of his Sunday performance. Johnson said he started playing violin at the age of 10. 'I've always loved music,' he said. Johnson plans to audition next month for a music program at the Julliard School in New York. As part of his audition to the school, he will perform in front of violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman.

Jerome Sanderson, the father of third-place winner John Sanderson, praised the efforts of the Sphinx Organization to foster racial and ethnic diversity in the classical music arena by helping younger musicians of color fine-tune their craft. 'The Sphinx Organization is providing role models,' said Jerome Sanderson. 'You see blacks and Latinos achieving great heights and musical excellence.' Aaron Dworkin, founder and president of the Sphinx Organization, said while his foundation has made some progress in bringing diversity to classical music and orchestras around the country, there is still 'a long way to go.'" [The Founder/President of The Sphinx Organization is violinist Aaron P. Dworkin (b. 1970), who is profiled at]

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