Nation’s top young Black and Latino string musicians compete for solo honors and other prizes.
The 13th Annual Sphinx Competition presented by the DTE Energy Foundation brought 18 of the country’s top young Black and Latino string players to Detroit and Ann Arbor. Selected from a national pool of applicants, 18 semifinalists competed for prizes including solo engagements with major orchestras and scholarships to leading institutions to further their music studies. The Sphinx Competition, held Feb. 3-7, featured an evening of chamber music and professional development opportunities for all participants.
Junior Division Laureates competed for first place at the Honors Concert on Feb. 5 at Ann Arbor’s Rackham Auditorium in partnership with the University Musical Society. The Senior Division culminated in the Finals Concert Feb. 7 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit.
Both the Honors and Finals concerts featured the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anthony Elliott, a prominent conductor and professor of cello at the University of Michigan. The all-Black-and-Latino Sphinx Symphony Orchestra brings together renowned professional musicians from around the country, including past and present members of the New York Philharmonic, Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis, New Jersey and New Mexico symphonies and others.
Featured guest artists the Harlem Quartet performed at the Finals Concert. The group, praised for its “panache” by the New York Times, is an ensemble comprising First-Place Laureates of the Sphinx Competition for young Black and Latino string players. The Harlem Quartet and Sphinx Symphony Orchestra presented the world premiere of Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra by acclaimed composer Michael Abels at the Finals Concert.
“The Sphinx Competition provides an important spotlight for gifted young Black and Latino musicians to share their talents with an audience of thousands who might not otherwise have the opportunity to hear and appreciate their artistry,” said Fred Shell, DTE Energy vice president of corporate and government affairs and president of the DTE Energy Foundation. “Supporting programs like the Sphinx Competition that promote diversity and enhance awareness of the contributions of diverse cultures is a priority for the DTE Energy Foundation. We are very pleased to serve as its presenting sponsor.”
This year the Sphinx Organization welcomed to the jury former violist of the Cleveland Quartet, Atar Arad; renowned concert violist Nokothula Ngwenyama; the first Black member of the New York Philharmonic, Sanford Allen; Atlanta Symphony bassist and Sphinx Competition alumnus Joseph Conyers; former cellist of the Cleveland Quartet and New England Conservatory of Music faculty member Paul Katz; violinist of the Juilliard Quartet and President of the Cleveland Institute of Music, Joel Smirnoff; and multi-year Grammy Award winning composer and conductor, Jose Serebrier.
Each year, young Black and Latino string players from around the country audition for the competition, which has awarded more than $1 million in prizes and scholarships since 1998.
Fifth Third Bank hosted forty students from the Winans Academy of Performing Arts and the string section of Southfield Lathrup High School.
“We are so pleased that we were able to provide these students the opportunity to attend the Sphinx Competition. They got a chance to see the best of the best of their peer group take part in a very challenging competition. Watching the competition helps them to appreciate these students’ dedication to their art and to realize that they too can achieve the pinnacle of success in music if that is their dream,” said Aleta Young, retail district manager, Fifth Third Bank.
The Sphinx Organization is the national nonprofit organization committed to building diversity in classical music through year-round programming in arts education, awareness and presentation.
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