The Sphinx Organization was founded in 1997 for the purpose of increasing the “representation of Black and Latinx artists in classical music and recognizing excellence.” In service of that purpose, the Sphinx Organization offers a variety of programs for its students within four categories: education and access, artist education, performing arts and artist leadership. This year, the organization hosting the sixth annual SphinxConnect conference — the “largest and longest-standing convening dedicated to diversity and inclusion in classical music.” This year’s convention will feature more than 90 speakers and 30 sessions with the intention to ignite artistic inspiration for the attendees, provide workshops to build their professional skills in the industry, and even offer employment opportunities. The organization intends to provide a hybrid of both in-person and virtual activities for participants and flexible registration options.
On the last day of the conference, the organization will hold its 25th annual Sphinx National Competition Finals Concert, which offers “young Black and Latinx classical string players a chance to compete under the guidance of an internationally renowned panel of judges and to perform with and receive mentorship from established professional musicians.”
The competition will be awarding a total of nearly $100,000 in prizes to the finalists, with the top prize being the $50,000 Robert Fredrick Smith Prize and the opportunity to perform solos with major orchestras. In 2016, Smith made a $250,000 commitment to the Sphinx Organization, stating, “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.”
Smith continued his statement at the time of the donation saying that he “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.”
Robert F. Smith’s Dedication to the Performing Arts
Smith’s love for music started in childhood when he was taught how to play piano by his father and grandmother, both musicians, at the age of 7 years old. Today, he is “an avid supporter of the arts, and has donated millions of dollars to preserve and expand access to arts, music, and more.”
The Fund II Foundation, an organization of which Smith is the founding director and President, made a gift of $3 million to help support “leadership and development programs for classical musicians, arts administrators, and cultural entrepreneurs of color.”
Robert F. Smith’s arts advocacy also extends to organizations such as the Louis Armstrong House Museum, where he serves as a trustee on the board of directors. And, Smith has served as a Chairman of Carnegie Hall’s Board of Trustees since 2016.
Read more about Smith, Fund II Foundation and the preservation efforts at the Louis Armstrong House.