Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Sphinx Organization: Knight Foundation grants $1.5 million for launch of Sphinx LEAD

Sphinx Organization

Sphinx is honored and grateful to receive a $1.5 million grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support the launch of a new professional development initiative, Sphinx LEAD (Leaders in Excellence, Arts & Diversity). 

The grant is part of the Knight Foundation's new $20 million investment in the arts in Detroit. Empowered by the support of this new initiative, Sphinx LEAD will begin in January 2019 and will serve Black and Latinx arts leaders who are looking to advance their personal and professional growth in order to produce impact in their communities and in the arts field as a whole.
“Working toward social impact through the arts absolutely vital at this time. For Sphinx, it is about changing the landscape of leadership to be more reflective and connected. This transformative support from the Knight Foundation will allow Sphinx LEAD to bring about immense positive change by providing a path and a platform to emerging leaders in the field,” said Afa Dworkin, Sphinx President and Artistic Director. “We are deeply honored and grateful to be included in this historic initiative alongside many legendary Detroit institutions.”

Each Sphinx LEAD participant will design a growth plan, receive ongoing personalized coaching and mentorship, and attend Leadership Retreats hosted by major cultural organizations. Retreats will allow participants to learn from experts in the field and take advantage of networking opportunities. The first of these will take place in Detroit, bringing national arts leaders to the city where Knight Foundation has committed to strengthening and empowering the arts. “Great art, tough art, challenging art helps to tell a great city’s own story. Nowhere is this more true than today’s Detroit,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president. Other retreats throughout the program will take place at The Juilliard School in New York City; the Cleveland Institute of Music; and New World Symphony in Miami, FL.

Stanford Thompson will oversee Sphinx LEAD as Dean. Thompson is the Founder and Executive Director of Play On, Philly!, an organization that provides intensive music education to K-12 students. He was also a recipient of Sphinx’s Medal of Excellence, a program which recognizes outstanding classical musicians of color. Aaron P. Dworkin, founder of the Sphinx Organization and Professor of Arts Leadership and Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan, will serve as Senior Advisor.

For Sphinx LEAD program information and application details, visit For more information about the Knight Foundation investment, visit

The Sphinx Organization is the social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Sphinx’s four program areas – Education & Access, Artist Development, Performing Artists, and Arts Leadership – form a pipeline that develops and supports diversity and inclusion in classical music at every level: music education, artists performing on stage, the repertoire and programing being performed, the communities represented in audiences, and the artistic and administrative leadership within the field.

Sphinx programs reach more than 100,000 students and artists, as well as live and broadcast audiences of more than two million annually. Read more about Sphinx’s programs at

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.

About Stanford Thompson
Stanford Thompson is a musician and educator who serves as the Founder and Executive Director of Play On, Philly! and Founding Board Chairman of El Sistema USA, bringing music education to students in underserved areas throughout Philadelphia and beyond. Recognized as a TED Fellow in 2017, Stanford believes that music education is a powerful tool for positive personal and community change. Mr. Thompson serves on the faculties of the Global Leaders Program and SAAVY Arts Venture while regularly lecturing at major Universities and Conservatories about leadership, entrepreneurship and social justice. As a consultant, he has guided the development of dozens of El Sistema-inspired programs across the United States and collaborated with major orchestras and arts organizations to develop new strategies and initiatives that helps provide equitable access to the arts. As a professional trumpeter, Stanford has performed as soloist and section member with major international orchestras and continues to perform chamber music and jazz. Stanford is a native of Atlanta, GA and hold degrees from The Curtis Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory’s Sistema Fellows Program.

About Aaron P. Dworkin
Named a 2005 MacArthur Fellow, President Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts, and Governor Snyder’s appointment to the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs, Aaron P. Dworkin previously served as dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD), which is ranked among the top performing arts schools in the nation. He is currently a tenured full professor of arts leadership and entrepreneurship at SMTD as well as serving as a professor of entrepreneurial studies at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. In addition, he is the founder of, which serves as the global marketplace for the arts, as well as The Sphinx Organization, the leading national arts organization with the mission of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Dworkin is the producer and host of AaronAsk, a weekly online mentoring show on creativity and leadership.

The Cleveland Institute of Music empowers the world’s most talented classical music students to fulfill their dreams and potential. Its graduates command the most celebrated and revered stages in the world as soloists, chamber musicians and ensemble members; compose meaningful, award-winning new repertoire; and are highly sought-after teaching artists, administrators and thought leaders. The Institute’s commitment to diversifying American classical music, focusing on expanding opportunities for African American and Latinx musicians in the conservatory and in pre-college programs, has been celebrated by students, alumni and partners. A testament to the excellence of a CIM education, more than half of the members of The Cleveland Orchestra are connected to CIM as members of the faculty, alumni or both. Explore to learn more.

Founded in 1905, The Juilliard School is a world leader in performing arts education. Juilliard’s mission is to provide the highest caliber of artistic education for gifted musicians, dancers, and actors from around the world so that they may achieve their fullest potential as artists, leaders, and global citizens.

Located at Lincoln Center in New York City, Juilliard offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in dance, drama (acting and playwriting), and music (classical, jazz, historical performance, and vocal arts). Currently more than 800 artists from 43 states and 41 countries are enrolled at Juilliard, where they appear in over 700 annual performances in the school’s five theaters; at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully and David Geffen halls and at Carnegie Hall; as well as other venues around New York City, the country, and the world.

Beyond its New York campus, Juilliard is defining new directions in global performing arts education for a range of learners and enthusiasts through The Tianjin Juilliard School and K-12 educational curricula.

The New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy (NWS), prepares graduates of music programs for leadership roles in professional orchestras and ensembles. In the 30 years since its co-founding by Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas and Lin and Ted Arison, NWS has helped launch the careers of more than 1000 alumni worldwide. A laboratory for the way music is taught, presented and experienced, the New World Symphony consists of 87 young musicians who are granted fellowships lasting up to three years. The fellowship program offers in-depth exposure to traditional and modern repertoire, professional development training and personalized experiences working with leading guest conductors, soloists and visiting faculty. Relationships with these artists are extended through NWS’s extensive distance learning via the internet. Visit



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