By Claudia Encinas
As MSLCE students, we often have the opportunity to dive deeply into the inner workings of many different arts organizations. We look at them through various lenses and strive to understand how and why they achieve success (or don’t).
I have long admired The Sphinx Organization and last quarter I had the opportunity to write a few essays about them. In fact, I talked about it so much that when Jane Chu visited MSLCE, I mentioned my interest in the organization and she kindly offered to introduce me to Afa Dworkin, the President and Artistic Director. I was able to start a conversation with Ms. Dworkin that ended up in me attending the SphinxConnect: Leaders Rising 2019 conference in Detroit, MI.
The Sphinx Organization’s mission “Transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.” is one that I hold very close to my heart as a person of color that has lived her entire life in the classical music world, and often feels underrepresented on and off the concert stage.
To start off the conference Earl Lewis, Director of the Center for Social Solutions at the University of Michigan, shared with an audience of over 800 that Black musicians make up less than 2% of orchestras nationwide, while Latinx musicians make up less than 3%. The last day of SphinxConnect, 19-year-old African-American cellist, Sterling Elliott, was awarded the $50,000 1st place prize of the Sphinx Competition.
This year’s conference consisted of more than 30 sessions, all of which centered around having intentional discussions about the classical music industry and race. SphinxConnect was an incredible weekend not only for performing artists, but also an invaluable networking opportunity for aspiring arts leaders.
However, one of my favorite aspects of the conference was the Expo Hall. Over 20 arts organizations set-up shop on the 4th floor of the Westin Cadillac Hotel, giving attendees the chance to talk to representatives of these organizations about various opportunities they had available. I was able to learn about many different internship opportunities, which was great timing as myself and my fellow MSLCE classmates are in the middle of our summer internship search.
As I sit at the gate in DTW waiting to board my flight back to Chicago, I am filled with inspiration and am invigorated by the events of the past 3 days. There have not been enough occasions since I made the move to the U.S. that I felt such an incredible feeling of belonging. I feel supported and encouraged, capable and worthy. The Sphinx Organization did that for me this weekend as they have been doing for hundreds of young Black and Latinx artists for the past 22 years, and it all started with an introduction.