The Sphinx Organization was established in 1996 by Aaron Dworkin, with a mission to increase black and Latino participation in music schools, as professional musicians, as classical music audiences, to administer youth development initiatives in underserved communities through music education, and to promote the creation, performance, and preservation of works by black & Latino composers.
“This afternoon’s concert was a thrilling conclusion to the competition. Sphinx has brought the sound of change to classical music where diversity plays a crucial role and fosters a culture that makes classical music accessible to all,” said Dworkin. “We look forward to seeing all of our talented semi-finalists and Competition winners in music schools and in orchestras across the country as they develop their musical careers.”
In addition to the Competition, the Sphinx Organization’s educational programs reach over 35,000 students around the country. The annual Sphinx Competition for young black and Latino string players has identified, rewarded, and promoted talented young musicians for over eleven years and awarded over $1,000,000 in prizes and scholarships.
In the end, it was only one who could be named First Place Laureate and it was Gareth Johnson, a 24-year old violinist from Wellington, Florida. His performance of the third movement of Saint Saëns Concerto for Violin in B Minor won him the top honors and a cash prize of $10,000. Karla Hall, Vice President of the DTE Energy Foundation, presented a trophy to Johnson on stage.
Second and third place honors went to Paul Laraia and John Sanderson, respectively. Laraia is a 20-year old violist from Boston. Third place Laureate John Sanderson is a 19-year old violinist from Bloomington, Indiana.
Deidre Bounds, chair of the Board of Directors for the Sphinx Organization, announced the launch of the Erb Family Foundation Challenge, where all new or increased gifts to the Sphinx Organization will be matched 2:1 by the Foundation. With this new support, Sphinx will be able to sustain programs throughout the entire year ahead.
The concert also featured the unique all black and Latino Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and guest artists the Harlem Quartet, an ensemble comprising First-Place Laureates of the Sphinx Competition. The Harlem Quartet and Sphinx Symphony Orchestra presented the world premiere of Urban Legends, a Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra, by acclaimed composer Michael Abels at the Finals Concert.
The Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, which includes professional musicians from around the country, performed under the direction of Anthony Elliott.
During the Junior Division Honors Concert, held at Ann Arbor’s Rackham Auditorium, Randall Goosby was named the First Place Junior Division Laureate. Goosby, a 13-year old violinist from Bartlett, Tennessee was awarded prizes and scholarships including opportunities for solo appearances with major orchestras, and a performance on NPR’s From the Top.
Alumni of the competition have performed as soloists with many of the nation’s top orchestras including the Detroit Symphony, New York Philharmonic, National Symphony, and Atlanta Symphony. The Finals Concert was recorded by Detroit Public Television for broadcast in HD, sponsored by Fifth Third Bank.
All 18 Sphinx Competition semi-finalists receive Sphinx Music Assistance Fund scholarships to help support their musical development, and are eligible for full scholarships to summer and higher education programs.
During the competition, participants are offered educational and professional development activities with renowned musicians and music professionals, and benefit from mentoring by Sphinx’s prestigious jury and Sphinx Symphony Orchestra members.
The jury panel for the 13th Annual Sphinx Competition was comprised of professional musicians from around the country including: Atar Arad, Nokothula Ngwenyama, Sanford Allen, Joseph Conyers, Paul Katz, Joel Smirnoff, and José Serebrier.