Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Harvard Crimson: 'Dworkin Calls for a Symphony of Diversity'

[Violinist Aaron P. Dworkin (Kelly S Robinson)]

By Sophie E. Heller, Contributing Writer
Published: Tuesday, March 22, 2011
“'I am basically a black, white, Irish, Jewish Jehovah’s Witness who plays the violin—the definition of diversity,' said Aaron P. Dworkin, violinist and founder of the Sphinx Organization, a national non-profit group which promotes racial diversity in the classical music world. In his Learning From Performers lecture on Friday, March 11 at the Barker Center, Dworkin attributed this background as one of his motivations to promote diversity in classical music, a field which he says still contains starkly underrepresented percentages of African-American and Hispanic musicians. As this year’s recipient of the Luise Vosgerchian Teaching Award, administered by the Office for the Arts at Harvard, Dworkin was invited to discuss the dearth of minorities in classical music and the efforts that Sphinx is spearheading to bring change.”

“His adoptive mother’s love for the violin convinced Dworkin to take up the instrument, and he has not looked back since. However, Dworkin’s rise as a classical musician is uncommon. Historically, classical music has never been particularly diverse; Dworkin said only two percent of musicians in classical orchestras are African-American and another one percent are Hispanic. According to Dworkin, there are currently no black members of the New York Philharmonic, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra gained its first black musician only in the last six years. Dworkin said that he was either the only African-American student or one of a small handful at every musical institution that he attended, including programs at the Interlochen Center for the Arts and the University of Michigan. He described his shock during his college years when he learned that there was an entire repertoire of African-American classical composition that he had not known existed. This realization, combined with today’s lack of minorities both on stages and in the audience, led Dworkin to found the Sphinx Organization.”

“One video, called 'Sphinx: The Sound of Change,' was comprised of inspirational clips of young minority musicians who have benefited from the Sphinx’s intensive summer boot camp and other educational programs. After presenting the clips, Dworkin added, 'By diversifying musicians on stage, the art form really evolves—and that, I think, is a benefit to everyone.'” [Aaron Dworkin (b. 1970) is profiled at AfriClassical.com and has a personal website, http://www.AaronDworkin.com]

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