Monday, March 14, 2011

Crain's Detroit: “'Music can be that bridge' – Sphinx seeks to expand global reach with diversity conference”

[Aaron Dworkin]

March 13, 2011 8:00 PM
By Sherri Welch
“The Sphinx Organization plans to establish an international conference on increasing diversity in classical music while showcasing its musicians. 'SphinxFest' would take place in England over a week's time, bringing together key arts, education and diversity leaders from the country to discuss best practices and to hear performances from Sphinx musicians.

“Plans for the conference, which Sphinx seeks corporate funding to support, are part of an international expansion of Sphinx's mission to increase diversity in major orchestras and to expose more underserved youth to classical music. Sphinx musicians have traveled to seven other countries over the past five years. SphinxFest would serve as a convening event much like the Sphinx Competition here in the U.S., said founder Aaron Dworkin.

“If the Detroit-based nonprofit is successful in securing some degree of funding or sponsorships from organizations like the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation and the U.S. embassy in England, the international conference could take place before the end of this year or early in 2012, Dworkin said. 'Especially these days, there seems to be so many manmade reasons for conflict between nations and/or lack of understanding and tolerance for other cultures,' he said. 'Music can be that bridge of understanding. To be able to take the models and work we've done here that we know have helped to bridge communities in the states and bring that to the international stage could have a major impact on the world.'"

“Sphinx began to dabble in international performances four or five years ago, first in London through its partnership with Southbank Centre, a national arts group akin to the Washington, D.C.-based The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 'As we began to have discussions with Southbank Centre and some of our partners in the other countries ... we learned there was need in underserved communities, among young people and among audiences that weren't typically exposed to classical music,' Dworkin said. 'The conclusion from those conversations was that the work we were doing here in the states was not only relevant in those countries but needed.'

“About 20 Sphinx musicians have traveled to perform at U.S. embassies and in local communities so far, performing in seven countries: Belgium, Bermuda, England, Mexico, Paraguay, South Africa and Venezuela.” “Sphinx's budget for the international activities is about $100,000 this year, up from $50,000 last year, he said, and coming from U.S. embassies, the U.S. State Department and organizations in other countries that bring Sphinx musicians in to their communities.” [Aaron Dworkin (b. 1970) is profiled at and has a personal website at]

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