Interlochen alumnus Aaron P. Dworkin to be honored at the Sphinx Organization’s 25th Anniversary Gala
Dworkin, who founded the Sphinx Organization in 1997, will be recognized during a concert and private reception at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage.
The gala, which will take place at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, will feature a concert by the Sphinx Organization’s premier ensemble, the Sphinx Virtuosi, as well as a private post-concert reception. The evening’s program is titled “Songs for our Times” and includes works by Heitor Villa Lobos, Carlos Simon, and Jessie Montgomery as well as world-premiere performances of Valerie Coleman’s “Tracing Visions” and Xavier Foley’s “An Ode to Our Times.”
In 1997, Dworkin—then a graduate student at the University of Michigan—founded the Sphinx Competition to promote Black and Latinx representation in professional orchestras. Over the years, Dworkin continued to expand the Sphinx Organization to include additional programs and resources for Black and Latinx musicians, composers, and arts leaders. Today, the organization’s many programs include the Sphinx Performance Academy; Sphinx Connect; the Sphinx MPower Artist Grants; and the Sphinx Medals of Excellence, and the Sphinx LEAD program. The inaugural Sphinx Gala, held annually at Carnegie Hall, took place in 2005.
To date, the Sphinx Organization has awarded $4.5 million in scholarships and grants, including 8,000 full-tuition scholarships to a variety of educational programs; commissioned more than 30 works by Black and Latinx composers; partnered with more than 325 organizations across the nation; and transformed the lives of more than 800 alumni of the organization’s various programs.
Interlochen Center for the Arts and the Sphinx Organization have enjoyed a rich partnership for many years. Interlochen frequently hosts retreats for Sphinx LEAD participants and has presented performances by both the Sphinx Virtuosi and the Harlem Quartet. Interlochen’s leaders are frequently invited to serve as panelists at Sphinx Connect conferences.
Numerous Interlochen alumni have participated in Sphinx’s programs, including Ruben Rengel (IAC 09-10), the Senior Division winner of the 2018 Sphinx Competition; Leslie DeShazor (IAC 93), a Sphinx Symphony Orchestra alumna and MPower Grant recipient; and Melissa White (IAC 93-94, IAA 00-02), a Sphinx Competition laureate and member of the Harlem Quartet.
Five Interlochen alumni have received the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, which recognizes extraordinary Black and Latinx musicians: clarinetist Anthony McGill (IAC 91, 93; IAA 94-96); trumpeter and educator Stanford L. Thompson (IAC 00-03); flutist Demarre McGill (IAC 89-91); soprano Raquel Gonzalez (IAC 07); and bass-baritone Davóne Tines (IAC 04).
Sphinx has created an abundance of opportunities that have catapulted my career as a performing artist, a business person, and a strong black woman. I’m honored to be a member of the Sphinx Familia and grateful for the transformative work supported by the Sphinx Organization.
In 2015, Dworkin stepped down as the President of the Sphinx Organization to become the first Black dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Dance, and Theatre. His wife, Afa S. Dworkin, succeeded him as president and artistic director of the Sphinx Organization.
An educator, entrepreneur, and multidisciplinary artist, Dworkin is a sought-after global thought leader and passionate advocate for excellence in arts education and leadership. A 2005 MacArthur Fellow, Dworkin was former president Barack Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts and currently serves as a member of President Biden’s Arts Policy Committee. Dworkin is also the host of one of the nation’s most widely viewed arts television programs, Arts Engines. As an artist, Dworkin has released two albums, created an acclaimed digital art project, penned five books—including The Entrepreneurial Artist: Lessons from Highly Successful Creatives and poetry collection They Said I Wasn’t Really Black—and produced the Emmy Award-winning film An American Rhapsody. He has been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and People Magazine, and has served on the board of directors or advisory board for prestigious arts organizations including the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Avery Fisher Artist Program, and Chamber Music America, among many others. In 2020, Dworkin presented the commencement address during Interlochen Arts Academy’s virtual commencement ceremony.
“From founding the Sphinx Organization to hosting Arts Engines, Aaron continually demonstrates his unparalleled and lasting commitment to the arts, and in particular, to advancing diversity in classical music,” said Trey Devey, President of Interlochen Center for the Arts. “I’d like to extend my deepest congratulations to Aaron on this well-deserved honor and express my gratitude for his visionary leadership in this important work. Interlochen is proud to count him as both an alumnus and a friend.”