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Sphinx Founder Discusses Equity in Classical Music

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Apr 19, 2016

In an interview with NEA Arts Magazine, Aaron Dworkin, founder of Sphinx Organization (Detroit, MI), described his own experiences with racial inequality in classical music as well the work he has done to improve diversity in the field. As a young musician, Dworkin wondered why there were so few people “who looked like me onstage or in the audience at concerts.” He asked, “How could this art form not be inclusive given the role it played in my life?”

Dworkin went on to found Sphinx, an organization that seeks to build inclusion in the performing arts and counter the stark under-representation of people of color in classical music. As Sphinx programing started to shine a light on exceptional classical musicians of color, the field started to adapt its expectations around who should be brought to the discussion around the future of classical music. Now, Dworkin notes, Sphinx “has granted millions of dollars in support and scholarships to young students of color who have gone on to become professors of music and to build their own artistic enterprises and launch their own nonprofit organizations in the field.”

Discussing next steps, Dworkin looks at the possibility for new initiatives that promote communities of color within classical music. Historically, the field has “lacked the initiative or the will or the prioritization to implement such initiatives.” But there are now more opportunities for progress. In particular, Dworkin argues that “we need to affect the exposure and the accessibility of early music education in our schools, especially our school systems for our most underserved communities.”

Read the full article here.

About Sphinx Overture

The Sphinx Overture program offers free weekly year-long classes in introductory violin performance for elementary school students in Detroit and Flint, MI. The program is designed to address the needs of students in pursuit of music studies at beginning levels who have not had access to steady, balanced musical training.

This resource brought to you by the National Guild for Community Arts Education.