VC INTERVIEW | Afa Dworkin - Sphinx Organization's President & Artistic Director

The Violin Channel will stream this year's Sphinx Virtual gala concert tonight at 7:00 pm ET, live on Facebook


The Violin Channel recently sat down with Afa Dworkin, President and Artistic Director of the Detroit-based Sphinx Organization.


Can you tell us about the Sphinx Organization?

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.


When was it founded and what is its core mission?

Sphinx was founded in 1997 by Aaron P. Dworkin with the goal of addressing the underrepresentation of people of color in classical music. Now led by President and Artistic Director Afa S. Dworkin, 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


It feels that our industry is now finally recognizing the need for greater diversity. What changes are you personally hoping to see in the coming years and what can we all do to help?

We aspire to see our field represent and be reflective of the communities in which we reside.  We want to encourage artists, leaders, teachers to lead from every seat, by adopting an intentionally inclusive approach to programming, teaching, recruitment, engagement, and artistic presentation. We encourage everyone to adopt Sphinx's Call to Action, which made be found at this link:


How did you adapt this year’s Gala to cope with the current COVID19 situation? 

For nearly a quarter of a century, Sphinx has been working to bring about positive change through the power of diversity in the arts. As a social justice organization, we felt it was important to pivot immediately to empower the most important voices of artists who have been so deeply affected by the pandemic.  This Gala's theme "Lift Ev'ry Voice" features a vibrant program of music by black and brown composers and nearly 70 artists who came together virtually to express their art and citizenship through excellence and innovation.


Can you tell us about the program and the artists who will be performing?

Join us for this celebration and hear from Sphinx artists, students, alumni, and distinguished guests who are leading the movement that is changing the face of our field and society!

Artists will include: double bassist Xavier Foley, clarinetist Anthony McGill, EXIGENCE  Vocal Ensemble, violinist Hannah White, soprano Raquel Gonzalez, and the Sphinx Virtuosi performing works by Foley, James Lee III, Leonard Bernstein, Carlos Simon, Villa-Lobos, Eugene Rogers and more.


How can we watch this year’s gala?

It's at 7 pm EDT, SphinxMusic.Org/Gala our on ours or the Violin Channel's Facebook.


What is your dream for the future of classical music?

We envision a day when classical music in all of its facets may reflect the rich diverse tapestry that is inherent in our communities. We hope for a time when it may play an integral and substantial role in the lives of young people everywhere, without regard to race, culture or circumstance.