The Sphinx Organization is the Detroit-based national organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.
The organization’s founding and mission were informed by the life experiences of Aaron Dworkin, the organization’s founder. As a young Black violinist, he was acutely aware of the lack of diversity both on stage and in the audience in concert halls. He founded Sphinx while a graduate student at the University of Michigan, to address the stark under-representation of people of color in classical music. President Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts, Aaron P. Dworkin currently serves as dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, which is ranked among the top performing arts schools in the nation.
Now led by Afa S. Dworkin, its President and Artistic Director, Sphinx programs reach over 100,000 students, as well as live and broadcast audiences of over two million annually. Sphinx works to create positive change in the arts field and in communities across the country through a variety of programs organized into four main principles:
Education & Access
As the organization has grown, so has its acclaim. Sphinx has been featured in The New York Times, Newsweek, People magazine, The Detroit Free Press, and on National Public Radio and NBC’s Today show. In addition, the annual Sphinx Competition is broadcast by Detroit Public Television, and syndicated to PBS stations nationwide.
Afa Dworkin’s work as the organization’s long time Artistic Director and now President, has also been recognized nationally. She was named one of Detroit’s “40 Under 40” by Crain’s Detroit Business, in addition to being a frequent speaker on the importance of inclusion and music education at conferences nationwide, including the League of American Orchestra, Chamber Music America, Americans for the Arts and beyond. Ms. Dworkin also serves as faculty for Roosevelt University’s Master’s Program in Performing Arts Administration.
Watch the Sphinx Story to get an overview of what Sphinx is all about.
The name Sphinx was given to the organization to represent some of the founding principles that guided its conception. The Sphinx represents the historical and geographical source for many minorities and exemplifies the power, wisdom and persistence that we hope to instill in our participants.
The Sphinx also constitutes a mystery, an enigma. Music shares this puzzling aspect, as it is born from the experiences and aspirations of the composer as well as the performer. Like the Sphinx, it is up to the beholder, the listener, to interpret and appreciate from the music what is ultimately a reflection of internal emotions and spiritual experiences.