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VC INTERVIEW | Sphinx Organization's Afa Dworkin

VC recently caught up with Afa Dworkin, President and Artistic Director of the Sphinx Organization, to discuss this year's annual Sphinx Competition and SphinxConnect convention

The Final round of this year's competition will be streamed live on The Violin Channel from 7:00 PM (EST) on Saturday, January 30th, 2021. You won't miss a beat.


What is the main mission of the organization?

Sphinx is the national social justice and performing arts organization with the mission of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. 


What are the main Sphinx initiatives for 2021?

We have been fortunate to pivot all programs to the digital space, continuing to serve our artists, augmenting our reach, and empowering our artists to innovate amidst the pandemic.

We are so excited about our global convening, launching Jan 28 and running through Jan 30, 2021. As the world's largest and longest-standing arts diversity convening, it is the epicenter for artists and leaders dedicated to building inclusion and equity in classical music. 

We expect approximately 1,500 registrants, 70 speakers, and great dialogue, culminating in the final phase of the Sphinx Competition Finals.  The finals will feature the nation's top six young string musicians competing for more than 100K in prizes, along with a performance by our Sphinx Symphony. 

Ongoing programming also continues, with our Sphinx LEAD learning retreats, developing the C-Suite leaders of tomorrow, as well as preparations for our string summer intensives serving our young artists, digital lessons in our Overture program, and a hopeful launch of live touring in the fall. 

In the spring, we will also announce a series of artist grants and hold a cultural entrepreneurship competition, SphinxTank. Later in February, our Sphinx Orchestral Partnership Auditions will reveal the winners of our excerpt competition, as well!  So, there is much excitement and energy in 2021, and we are grateful to carry on this work.


What can the laureates of the competition expect to win? And how do you go about helping them afterwards?

$100,000K in prizes, access to quality instruments, scholarships to summer and collegiate programs, opportunities to perform with top orchestras as soloists, and other performance opportunities organized through our artist engagement programming.

All alumni of the competition join the family, and from here forward, we stay in touch, maintain a dialogue, empower, and support them. These are the artists and leaders who are shaping the present and the future of the classical music industry. What a privilege we have to support their careers and build a network so that they may innovate and collaborate. 


What are the highlights of this year’s SphinxConnect convention for you?

It will be an emotional time, without a doubt. SphinxConnect is an annual family reunion, where at times, we meet folks who are philosophically related to us, without previous knowledge. The theme is UNITY. I look forward to hearing each of the plenaries, ranging from the Poet Laureate Elizabeth Alexander to opera star Will Liverman, and a multigenre phenomenon, Damien Sneed.

Conversations will focus on orchestrating diversity on and off stage, innovation for artists amidst the pandemic, social media's role, cultivating entrepreneurial spirit among our young artists, and the experiences of artists and the top leadership of partner institutions. I look forward to the energy, the challenge of some of the more direct conversations, and the lessons we will all take back.


How has Sphinx adapted to the COVID-19 situation this year? And what initiatives have you put in place to support artists during this difficult time?

Our pivot took us to a place where our applicant pool across multiple programs grew by 60%, our digital audiences by nearly 1,000%, and our orchestral training intensives served 4 times the number of artists. 

Sphinx awarded more than $800,000 in artist relief funds and career support, so that we may continue to empower the careers of our family members.

Our string chamber orchestra, Sphinx Virtuosi, has been touring digitally as well. We look forward to our 25th anniversary in 2022, so there is much dreaming and implementation ahead at Sphinx!


How can we watch the competition and interact with the convention this year?

Go to our website and register free for both!


SphinxConnect registration

Sphinx Finals Concert


upcoming events

may 2024

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