The concert featured the intoxicating Sphinx Chamber Orchestra, comprised of top African American and Latino alumni Sphinx competition winners, who opened the concert with a rendition of The Star Spangled Banner so beautiful as to breathe new life into the age-old masterpiece that had somehow become cliché.

In an era of bells and whistles, oversaturated music sampling and recycling, it was heartening and refreshing to see our youth take up their own instruments, read and play the actual music scores, inherently sending the audience to Heaven and back.  Such discipline and artistry is incomparable, as evidenced by the sold out box office at Carnegie Hall.

It was an enchanted evening of splendor and bliss at monumental Carnegie Hall as Sphinx, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase, presented a spellbinding Gala Concert on Tuesday, October 24th.

Coinciding with the milestone 10th anniversary of Sphinx, JPMorgan Chase committed one million dollars over four years providing lead corporate support to the Sphinx Carnegie Hall Series and Presenter of the Sphinx Competition for young Black and Latino string players.

The concert featured the intoxicating Sphinx Chamber Orchestra, comprised of top African American and Latino alumni Sphinx competition winners, who opened the concert with a rendition of The Star Spangled Banner so beautiful as to breathe new life into the age-old masterpiece that had somehow become cliché. The debuting Sphinx Harlem Quartet and top Laureates performing as soloists under the majestic direction of world acclaimed Maestro Anthony Elliott, charmed and astonished the audience as we witnessed true musicianship at its very finest.

Compositions by legendary greats, Mozart, Perkinson, Villa-Lobos, Handel and Halvorsen, Wynton Marsalis, Ysaÿe and Vivaldi were all masterfully performed by the young Sphinx masters.

Ilmar Gavilan (violin) and Juan-Miguel Hernandez (viola) skillfully performed Handel and Halvorsen’s Passacaglia — a most challenging and fascinating piece. The composition gave both musicians the opportunity to showcase their versatile and brilliant instrumental prowess.  The dramatic passages and intricate variations deemed more of an emotional heart-to-heart between men than a duet.  So many feelings came pouring out onto the admiring audience as the violin woefully declared while the viola heartily consoled; both voices dancing off in gleeful folly at the conclusion.

Gareth Johnson (violin) performing Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s Louisiana Blues Strut (A Cakewalk) was inspiring.  His remarkable understanding of the blues and the spirit in which he conveyed the composition was superb and garnered cheers and a standing ovation as he charismatically bowed and blew a kiss to his adoring audience.

The Harlem Quartet engaged the audience in a frenzy of intriguing rhythms and harmonic expressions, performing Wynton Marsalis’ String Quartet No. 1, “At the Octoroon Balls�.  The quartet played with such precision, one can only imagine how many hours per day these amazing young masters practice their craft.  In spite of it all, the piece was executed so dexterously, the audience had no idea they had become participants in the performance until the piece was done.  Absolute brilliance and great fun.

Tai Murray, (violin) performing Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 6 for Violin solo masterfully moved us to tears.
Aaron P. Dworkin, Founder and President of the Sphinx Organization gave a very moving and compelling overview of what Sphinx is all about.

“Aaron P. Dworkin was born on September 11, 1970 in Monticello, New York and moved to New York City two weeks later.  “As a biracial kid growing up as a black man in America, adopted when I was two weeks old by white parents, I am, at my spiritual, emotional, intellectual and biological core, the embodiment of diversity.  As a musician and a writer, I have experienced the power that the arts possess to bridge racial and cultural divides and touch a mosaic of people from differing backgrounds and communities.”  Excerpt from Aaron P. Dworkin’s Web site, www.Ethnovibe.com

“Aaron P. Dworkin began playing the violin at age five.  When he was 10, the family moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania, which had only one Black family.  Racism made life difficult for him there.  He graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, and received his Bachelors of Music and Masters of Music in Violin Performance from the University of Michigan.  He plays both acoustic and electric violin, and has recorded two CDs, Ebony Rhythm and Bar-Talk.  When he studied violin performance at the University of Michigan, Aaron Dworkin was often the only African American in a class or even in a concert audience.  Only 1.5% of orchestra members in the U.S. are people of color, the Ann Arbor News article says.  In 1996 Dworkin founded The Sphinx Organization, a national non-profit group which holds an annual competition for Black and Latino string players.  The mission of Sphinx is to increase the participation of Blacks & Latinos in music schools, as professional musicians, as classical music audiences and to administer youth development initiatives in underserved communities through music education�  From http://www.homestead.com/ChevalierDeSaintGeorges/Dworkin.html

Maestro Anthony Elliott is a member of Sphinx’s Advisory Board, past member of the Sphinx Competition jury panel and guest conductor of the sphinx Symphony.  Maestro Elliott was one of the featured guest conductors at Sphinx’s highly acclaimed Inaugural Gala Concert at Carnegie Hall in 2004.  Professor of cello and conductor of the Michigan Youth Symphony Orchestra at the University of Michigan, he is a long-time advocate for music education for young people.  Maestro Elliott has given countless workshops, clinics and performances in schools and community centers across the country.  He was the first African American musician to be appointed to a leadership position in a major symphony orchestra, when he was selected by Stanislav Skrowaczewski to become the Associate Principal cellist of the Minnesota Orchestra.  Later he served as principal cellist of the Vancouver Symphony.  (From Carnegie Hall Playbill)

Concert Master and Broadway composer, Sanford Allen was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by Kimberly B. Davis, President of JPMorgan Chase Foundation.  “This is nothing new.  It’s evolutionary.  Blacks and Latinos have been paving the way in music literally for centuries.� stated Ms. Davis.

Finalized by a grand performance of Vivaldi’s Concerto for 3 violins and strings in F major, RV 551, III Allegro, by the breathtaking Sphinx Chamber Orchestra with angelic features by Elena Urioste (violin), Maia Cabeza (violin), Melissa White (violin), and conducted by the magnificent Maestro Anthony Elliott, the evening concluded with tearful standing ovations, Bravos and roaring cheers throughout the auditorium.

Decked out in their concert formals, a rare breed will carry on the legacy of great music. Tuesday night, October 24th, 2006, history was made as young African American and Latino ladies and gentlemen graced the stage of the Isaac Stern Auditorium at magnificent Carnegie Hall.

Brenda Jeanne Wyche, Advocate for Solutions and Results ©2006 is Managing Editor for The Black Star News and Harlem Business News and CEO of Winning Strategies & Associates, a business development consultancy in New York City.  If you have a solution, contact [email protected] .  Maybe we’ll talk.

To subscribe to or advertise in New York’s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper, please call (212) 481-7745 or send a note to [email protected] .
“Speaking Truth to Empower.�

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