Lawrence Toppman

Sphinx Virtuosi proves classical music comes in all colors

Members of the Sphinx Vurtuosi wait at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater to play a concert in Washington, D.C.
Members of the Sphinx Vurtuosi wait at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater to play a concert in Washington, D.C. Kevin Kennedy

African-American and Latino audiences still don’t turn up in concert halls as often as classical music promoters would like. Some folks think that’s because they don’t see enough performers who look like them. Sphinx Virtuosi has been correcting that situation for 20 years, and the group rolls into Charlotte Oct. 12-14 for two free public concerts and 15 school appearances.

The Arts & Science Council, Knight Foundation and Community School of the Arts will bring the group, which comprises 18 of the nation’s top young African-American and Latino classical soloists. A smaller group, the Catalyst Quartet, anchors the bigger one and breaks off to make music of its own.

Aaron Dworkin founded Sphinx as a student at the University of Michigan to address the lack of people of color in classical music. Dworkin, an African-American violinist, now serves as dean of Michigan’s School of Music, Theater and Dance.

The musicians all come through the Sphinx competition and come together each fall to reach new audiences with music they can’t always hear. The Charlotte trip will take the Virtuosi to about 15 schools; there students will get schoolwide performances, smaller performances for arts departments, orchestra classes and master classes for orchestra students.

You can hear the full chamber orchestra at free public performances of “Latin Voyages: Viajes Latinos.” That concert for strings encompasses the Argentine tango, nocturnal imagery from Mexico, a tribute to Astor Piazzolla and a final evocation of a Catalan dance.

The first concert starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Mint Museum of Art, 500 S. Tryon St. The second begins at 7 p.m Friday at First Baptist Church West, 1801 Oaklawn Ave. Details: 704-377-4187 or csarts.org.

Toppman: 704-358-5232

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