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Sphinx conference hopes to bring more diversity to the performing arts

Young People's Chorus of New York City

What is the best way to increase diversity in the arts? There is no easy answer. That’s why for the third year, the Detroit-based Sphinx Organization is having a summit to discuss the issue.

Jane Chu

Jane Chu

SphinxCon: ENGAGE, the organization’s national conference on inclusion and diversity in the arts, will take place from January 30 through February 1 at the Westin Book Cadillac. More than 40 arts leaders, including National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu, will address the challenges surrounding diversity in the performing arts and discuss innovative solutions to engage audiences and artists.

Before I get too deeply into the details of the conference let me tell you a little about the Sphinx Organization and how it is making a difference in the lives of so many.

Aaron DworkinSince Aaron Dworkin founded it in 1996, the top-tier orchestras in America have increased their number of African American members by 100%. In every case, the member is a Sphinx alumnus or alumna, a Sphinx Symphony Orchestra member or the orchestra is Sphinx partner. Plus, solo performances by musicians of color have increased to 20-30 per year.

The Sphinx Virtuosi, one of the only professional Black & Latino orchestras in existence, recently completed its seventh annual national tour. With Yo-Yo Ma as the special artistic advisor, The Sphinx Virtuosi earned rave reviews nationwide. It was described as producing “a more beautiful, precise and carefully shaped sound than some fully professional orchestras that come through Carnegie Hall in the course of the year” by The New York Times.

The goal of the organization is to locate and nurture more diversity talent in the classical arts. That’s why hundreds of arts professionals, educators, arts administrators, musicians, performers, philanthropists, and artists will come together at SphinxCon: ENGAGE to discuss best practices dance, theatre, LGBTQ outreach, arts and healing, philanthropy and grant making, research and policy and innovation.

Speaking out on the subjects will be artists, arts professionals, educators, arts administrators, musicians, performers and philanthropists. Besides Jane Chu the roster includes:

George Galster, professor of urban affairs at Wayne State University, will serve as moderator and Eric Booth, arts learning consultant, as facilitator.

The discussion on the performing arts and minority effect on them will be a collaborative one with an interactive format and structure. The presenters will speak of their work and theories for 10 minutes, after which they will discuss the issues as a group for 15 minutes.

The interactive part comes in with the last 20 minutes with an audience question and answer. The goal is to form a connection with all side of those invested in the advancement of minorities in the arts.

Afa Sadykhly Dworkin photo by  Kevin Kennedy

Afa Sadykhly Dworkin

“Our first two conferences have been huge successes and, in partnership with Detroit Public Television, we are eager to reach an even wider audience who share our passion of engaging minorities and underserved communities,” said Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, executive and artistic director of The Sphinx Organization, “We are thrilled to bring together many of the world’s predominant arts professionals who support our mission of transforming lives through the power of the arts.”

Please click here for schedule of events.

On-site registration is $35 for students, $50 for the day pass and $150 for the full pass. The entire conference will also be broadcast live on Detroit Public Television. For more details and to register, please visit

Also, don’t miss the 2015 Sphinx Competition Finals at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 1. It’s the culmination of the competition for young Black and Latino string players. Watch the outstanding Senior Division finalists, accompanied by the unique all Black and Latino Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, as they compete for a grand prize of $50,000.

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