Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sphinx Announces 2014 Recipients of Medals of Excellence and $50,000 Artist Scholarships


On March 19, 2014, Sphinx will honor three outstanding artists of color who demonstrate the following qualities: artistic excellence, outstanding work ethic, a spirit of determination, and great potential for leadership.

Damien Sneed, Carla Dirlikov and Pedrito Martinez

These three artists are the recipients of the third annual Sphinx Medals of Excellence. The awards will be bestowed at the official Sphinx Medals of Excellence luncheon and honorees will be celebrated at a black-tie private dinner in Washington, D.C. The three Medalists will also each receive a $50,000 artist scholarship for their career development. 

“We are proud to celebrate the incredible successes of Damien, Carla and Pedrito! Their contributions have been transformational to our art form, as well as our communities,” said Sphinx Founder and President, Aaron P. Dworkin. 

Damien SneedDamien Sneed

A sought after pianist, organist, vocal coach, conductor, composer, arranger, lecturer, and producer, Damien Sneed is a native of Augusta, Georgia. He served as the musical director for the hit Gospel singing competition television show, Sunday Best, on the Black Entertainment Television (BET) channel. His conducting debut took place in April 2008 at Jazz at Lincoln Center where he conducted the world premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and a 150-voice choir. Then, with a piece that he arranged and scored for the entire 64-piece New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, his compositional debut took place in June 2008 along with American Idol Finalist Anwar Robinson and conductor Thomas Wilkins. Shifting between classical to jazz to gospel to opera to Broadway, he accompanied Jessye Norman on piano with 5 spirituals that he arranged in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s Bicentennial at the Grand Opening of Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC for President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama. He was nominated for a Grammy in the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards. 

Carla Dirlikov
Carla Dirlikov 

Carla Dirlikov was recently described by Opera Magazine as having “the most compelling voice…one that grabbed the heartstrings with its dramatic force and musicality.” Ms. Dirlikov’s recent engagements of note include Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem at Washington National Cathedral and Preziosilla La Forza del Destino Opera Royal de Wallonie, conducted by Paolo Arrivabeni. Ms. Dirlikov has toured China, US and Europe with solo recitals and opera roles. She received her Bachelors in Music from the University of Michigan, where she studied with Shirley Verrett. She continued her studies at the Conservatoire National de Paris, and completed her Master’s degree in Opera Performance at McGill University in Montreal. Born the daughter of a Bulgarian father and a Mexican mother, Miss Dirlikov was recently awarded the title of Cultural Envoy to Mexico, where she continues to work and teach music to orphaned and poverty-stricken youth. She also sings extensively as a soloist throughout Mexico and South America. 

Pedrito Martinez
Pedrito Martinez 

Pedro Pablo “Pedrito” Martinez was born in Havana, Cuba, and began his musical career at the age of 11, performing as vocalist and percussionist playing with such Cuban legends as Tata Guines, Munequitos de Matanzas. After coming to North America to pursue his career, Pedrito won first place in the annual Thelonious Monk Institute Competition showcasing Afro-Latin Hand Drumming. Since then, Pedrito has performed, recorded, and/or toured with Paquito D’Rivera; Brian Lynch; Steve Turre; Me’shell Ndege’Ocello; Cassandra Wilson; Sting, and others. The Pedrito Martinez Group has its roots planted firmly in the Afro-Cuban Rumba tradition and in the bata rhythms and vocal chants of the music of Yoruba and Santeria. With its formation in the current lineup in 2008, the group has developed into an extraordinarily tight and creative unit. Members include percussionist, Jhair Sala, from Lima, Peru; electric bassist, Alvaro Benavides, from Caracas, Venezuela; and keyboard player/vocalist, Araicne Trujillo, from Havana, Cuba.    

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