Since its founding in 1997, the Sphinx Organization has been dedicated to transforming the lives of people of color through the power of diversity in the arts. SphinxConnect, the Sphinx Organization’s annual event, allows leaders and artists in diversity to meet and showcase their talents to the wider community. However, this year, SphinxConnect 2021: UNITY looks a little different. While this will be the fifth year of the event, it is the first time it is being held virtually. From January 28, – January 30, 2021, SphinxConnect will welcome hundreds of musicians, industry leaders, educators, funders, diversity advocates and administrators to this transformative experience from the comfort of their own homes.
Tickets for SphinxConnect 2021 are priced at $150 for general admission, and admission includes the full series of events. There is also a “Pay What You Are Able” option to minimize attendance barriers. Participants can also apply for a SphinxConnect Fellowship. Recipients of the fellowship will receive free conference registration and $75 toward internet costs.
The events of SphinxConnect 2021 vary, from an opening session with Elizabeth Alexander, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation President, to panel discussions like “Artful Resilience: How Musicians Innovate in Crisis,” “Socially Vocal: a Discussion on Race and Identity in the Arts” and “This is Everyone’s Fight: How Philanthropic Institutions Stepped Forth to Support Artists and BIPOC Institutions.” Each session will be interactive, with attendants being able to network with the panelists. Additionally, attendees can sign up for a booth, which is a virtual space to engage and share information with SphinxConnect attendees via a Zoom meeting.
The Sphinx Competition Junior and Senior Division Finals
The SphinxConnect program is not the only event scheduled to be virtual in January 2021. The show must go on, so to speak, as the Sphinx Competition Junior and Senior Division Finals will also proceed as scheduled, albeit virtually. Presented by the DTE Energy Foundation, the finals can be viewed at the conclusion of SphinxConnect 2021 on Saturday, January 30 at 7:00 pm ET on the Sphinx Organization’s website, YouTube Channel or Facebook.
Now in its 24th year, the competition recognizes the outstanding achievements of young African American and Latinx classical string players. Junior division winners are awarded cash prizes, with the first-place finalist receiving $10,000. Senior division winners, however, receive more significant cash prices, with the first place winner earning the Robert Frederick Smith Prize, worth $50,000.
Robert F. Smith’s Donations to the Sphinx Organization
The Sphinx Organization’s Senior Division Finals’ most coveted prize derives its name from one of the organization’s most recognized donors: philanthropist and entrepreneur Robert F. Smith. In 2016, Smith committed $250,000 to support young musicians of the organization, which was used to establish the Robert Frederick Smith Prize.
“Music is at the core of the African American and Latino cultural experience and provides us with a language to inspire, uplift and empower our young people,” said Smith about the importance of supporting music education for people of color. “I partnered with Sphinx to give this prize because Sphinx understands how music transforms lives and through its competition can recognize the very best musicians in the world.”
The 2016 gift is not the only support Smith has contributed to the organization over the years. In 2017, Smith donated $1 million to underwrite the Sphinx Virtuosi National Tour, one of the nation’s most dynamic professional chamber orchestras composed of 18 top Black and Latinx classical soloists. A few years later, Smith also sponsored the Sphinx artists who performed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Additionally, in 2019, through the Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is the founding director and President, the Sphinx Organization received the largest donation to date: $3 million. The gift was designed to help the organization reach even more individuals of minority backgrounds while also funding programs, such as SphinxConnect.
To learn more about SphinxConnect 2021: UNITY or to register for the event, visit the program website.