Getting to Know the Sphinx Organization

by SparkMedia
March 6, 2014  |  Documentaries,Production,Sonata Mulattica

Ahh, the sweet sound of the violin! February was busy (as always!) here at Spark, with screenings of No Evidence of Disease and continued post-production of Red Lines, but this month had an extra special soundtrack.

From February 18-23 (a thankfully warm week for a Michigan winter!) we traveled to Detroit for a jam-packed week-long production shoot with the Sphinx Organization, a groundbreaking Detroit-based nonprofit dedicated to transforming lives through diversity in the arts. While our primary intent was a simple sit-down interview with Sphinx founder and Sonata Mulattica project advisor Aaron Dworkin, we quickly discovered the plethora of programs and talent that Sphinx attracts, and received an exhilarating crash course in the Sphinx Organization’s truly inspirational mission and initiatives in return.

We spent the majority of the week with the young violinists, violists, cellists, and bassists of the 17th annual Sphinx Competition, a high-stakes contest featuring the country’s best and brightest Black and Latino musicians. From practice sessions in their hotel rooms to formal interviews in our portable on-site studio, we eagerly captured the lives and personalities of these young artists, following their journey through the ups and downs of the competition. From Wednesday’s rehearsals to Thursday’s semifinals to Friday’s finals competition to the winner’s performance with the Sphinx Orchestra in Orchestra Hall on Sunday, it was an exhilarating event, made even more meaningful by the positive attitude and sense of camaraderie found in each of the participants across the board.


Sonata-Sphinx-Honors FinalistsSonata-Sphinx-Overture 2
The three Junior Division finalists.                                   Sphinx Overture students.                                       

Among the other incredible Sphinx events we were able to capture was the Sphinx Overture program, a series of free after-school classes that teach beginning violin to inner-city students. Regardless of background, Overture’s mission is to teach kids to be creative and motivated to work hard and find their passion. Back at the Renaissance Center, we also attended SphinxCon, an annual convention that brings together leaders in the arts world to discuss solutions to issues of diversity. Hundreds attended the convention, where we had the opportunity to interview visionaries such as Stan Thompson and Rick Robinson, speakers at the conference and members of the Sphinx Orchestra.

From the Competition’s musical prodigies to the young kids in Overture to the professional musicians in the Sphinx Orchestra, it was amazing to meet so many people with such an active interest in diversity and passion for the arts. Not to mention the bizarre but fitting diversity of the hotel itself – we shared the Renaissance Center Marriott that weekend with the Nation of Islam and Motor City Tattoo conventions! It was certainly a shoot to remember, and we look forward to incorporating this material into Sonata Mulattica… and a webseries about the Sphinx Competition, to be announced! Keep an eye out for more production stills and teasers of what’s to come in the editing room!

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