Sphinx Venture Fund Announces 2022 Recipients

The organization awarded almost $300,000 worth of grants to the three chosen organizations

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The money will be used to fund two new competitions: the inaugural Nina Simone Piano Competition for Black pianists, the inaugural New York City Opera Duncan-Williams Voice Competition for emerging, Black and Latinx singers. The third grant went to "Composing Inclusion," a commissioning project for Black and Latinx composers to create works with “flexible” orchestration.

The inaugural Nina Simone Piano Competition for young African American pianists will be held in summer 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The competition was created by pianist and conductor Awadagin Pratt and will be presented by his Art of the Piano Festival & Foundation in partnership with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati. To be held every two years, it will take place before the annual two-week Art of the Piano Festival on the CCM campus.

The new New York City Opera Duncan-Williams Voice Competition competition for emerging Black and Latinx singers will be launched in 2023 by the New York City Opera (NYCO) in partnership with the Manhattan School of Music (MSM). It will have no entry fee and offer monetary audition support to successful applicants. The competition will offer cash prizes, performance contracts with NYCO, and mentorship.

"Composing Inclusion," a partnership between the Juilliard School, the New York Philharmonic, and the American Composers Forum. This project will connect young composers at Juilliard's pre-college program with players from the New York Philharmonic, with the goal of commissioning new works. 

Launched in 2020, the Sphinx Venture Fund is the brainchild of the Sphinx Organization, a social-justice group that provides initiatives that lift diversity in the arts. They have committed $1.5m to the project over the next five years, and estimate that their programs have reached around 100,000 students.

“In the almost 30 years that it’s been since I won the Naumburg International Piano Competition in 1992, far too few African American pianists have joined me on the concert stages across the United States," said Awadagin Pratt, the founder of the Nina Simone Competition. "I know what a wonderful addition to the classical music community these voices will be and this competition aims to fix this problem.”

“With New York City Opera's rich history of promoting artists of color and Manhattan School of Music's groundbreaking work with their Cultural Inclusion Initiative, I can't imagine a better pairing for this exciting project,” said Alexa Smith, Chief of Staff at the New York City Opera. “This is the competition I wished existed when I was a singer and was working non-stop to scrape together money to pay for performance opportunities.”