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Laurie Niles

Bringing you the Sphinx Competition this week on

February 1, 2011 at 11:16 PM

Tomorrow I leave for the snow-swept American Midwest -- I will board a plane for Michigan, where I plan to bring you live coverage of the Sphinx Competition in Ann Arbor and Detroit.

What is the Sphinx? The Sphinx Organization was founded in 1996 to encourage Black and Latino participation in classical music. Its founder is Aaron P. Dworkin, a violinist and a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Michigan who more recently was nominated by President Obama to serve on the the National Council on the Arts.

The competition is held annually, with a junior division (under 18 years old) and senior division (ages 18-26). (Here's the application information, if you are curious) The competition will also include masterclasses and a panel discussion on preparing for a career in classical music, as well as the gathering of the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, an orchestra of Black and Hispanic professional musicians from all over the United States (including member Samuel Thompson, at last we will meet in person!)

The Sphinx Symphony will play with the Junior Division finalists on Friday at noon EST in Ann Arbor (to be broadcast live on the Sphinx website) and with the Senior Division finalists on Sunday in Detroit. The Finals Concert will feature a performance of Roberto Sierra’s Sinfonia No. 4, a piece commissioned by the Sphinx Commissioning Consortium.

This year, the Sphinx semi-finalists range in age from 13 to 24, from nine states. Nine are violinists, four are violists, four are cellists, and one is a double bassist. The junior division semi-finalists are: Caitlin Adamson of Evanston, IL; Juan-Salvador Carrasco of Santa Monica, CA; Brendon Elliott of Newport News, VA; Xavier Foley of Marietta, GA; Annelle Gregory of San Diego, CA; Alexandra Switala of Grapevine, TX; Ray Trujillo of Elk Grove, CA; and Ade Williams of Chicago, IL. The senior division semi-finalists are: Maia Cabeza of Philadelphia, PA; Michael Casimir of Philadelphia, PA; Mariana Cottier-Bucco of Norristown, PA; Alexander Cox of Cleveland, OH; Josue Gonzalez of Cleveland, OH; Andrew Griffin of Houston, TX; Sheena Gutierrez of Miami, FL; Scott Jackson of Cincinnati, OH; Paul Laraia of Boston, MA; and Erica Snowden- Rodriguez of Cleveland, OH

The semi-finalists were drawn from application CDs and tapes submitted in the fall, with participation limited to current U.S. residents who are Black or Latino.

I'm looking forward to hearing these young artists, visiting with musicians in the Sphinx Symphony and watching this organization, which has become increasingly important the development of minority artists. I suspect the Sphinx has much to show us about artist development and outreach for everyone as well!


From David Burgess
Posted on February 2, 2011 at 12:00 AM

Things are looking less than ideal for air travel to Detroit tomorrow, but if you make it, give me a shout. The Cleveland Orchestra may still be in town if they can't find a way to get to Chicago. Or if you want to know more about the Detroit Symphony strike, maybe I can hook you up with someone.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 2, 2011 at 12:45 AM


Indeed, I've noticed the dire weather predictions. Not just predictions, at this point! It looks rather likely that my flight will be "excessively delayed." Nonetheless, I'll pack my bags and hope for the best. Can anyone do a "snow dance" for me?

From Jim Hastings
Posted on February 2, 2011 at 4:32 AM

A "snow dance"?  Well, as I've said elsewhere, I don't really know how to dance; but I'll send best wishes that the trip, if it goes ahead, will be a safe one.  If it does, I look forward to reading how Sphinx Competition went.

BTW, this former Michiganian didn't order the Midwest blizzard -- as tempting as it was to do so as special thanks for the winter air masses the up-north folk keep sending our way.

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