Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sphinx's Goal?

In advance: I do apologize for the length of this post, but this topic really reached home to me and is incredibly important to me.

While the Sphinx's Organization goals are important, are they really being realized? According to the Sphinx Organization's website its vision is as follows:

"We envision a world in which
classical music reflects cultural diversity
and plays a role in the everyday lives of youth."

Likewise its mission includes, but is not to limited to "...To administer youth development initiatives in underserved communities through music education..."

I am not sure if everyone in class may have noticed, but while Dr. Jackson and I were speaking of this organization I found myself not in awe of its accomplishments, but instead more removed from it. I realized this fact after class and began to wonder why that might have been my initial reaction to an organization representing something that should at surface level at least be inspiring to me.

While I ruminated my reaction to this, I stumbled upon the reasoning for my reaction. While this is a very strong opinion of mine, I do realize that it is indeed just that. I don't therefore claim anything I am going to state next to be a fact, but rather the candid emotion I feel.

The first thought that comes to mind when I think of Sphinx is the competition it holds annually for Black and Latino string players. This competition is held in two divisions: Jr. and Sr. Division. I have noticed over the years that while every student that has won this competition has been of the racial background designated, they are also of a very fortunate musicial background. For instance, in the past three years within the Sr. division there has not been one alumni of the sphinx competition that is a student outside of the typical famous music schools one would expect every virtuoso to attend. Each Jr. division alumni is typically a student that attends world-renowned musical festivals and have been playing since in incredibly early age. This in no way allows any of the alumni to be defined as "underprivileged" within the culture of the classical world.

I do realize however that this is in the context of competition and so of course only the best of the best will or can be recognized. I decided to take the time to research more into the outreach programs that the Sphinx Organization operate to see if perhaps they truly attempt to reach the underprivileged children or students of the country. Unfortunately, my predictions came true as I saw no sign of an outreach to truly underprivileged children. While the programs are attended for public schools, mainly of urban areas where more minority students reside, the programs also all happen to be within about a 20 mile radius of the major music schools in America where these children most likely already have plenty of opportunity to become involved in the classical music world. Most of the programs are in New York (Julliard camp), Boston (Obvious huge classical scene), Cleveland (CIM camp), etc. This is very disheartening to me because they are not really reaching the students that are truly underprivileged in a cultural sense. Musical-culturally underprivileged kids that are not already surrounded by big music scenes are not even attempted to be reached.

I honestly haven't heard of the Sphinx Organization much earlier than most of you. In fact, I was never even told of its existence until my sophomore year of undergraduate school while I was attending the Encore School for Strings which happens to be based in CIM and which many Curtis Institute students attend! I had not heard of any program pertaining to classical music outside of public school for that matter before college, but not having heard of this program until I reached a certain level of ability on my own is especially frustrating for me. The students who are truly underprivileged culturally are left in the dark to attempt to create what is essentially a miracle - that is a career for themselves in the music world with no real help.

Furthermore, it is frustrating already to have to constantly be reminded that I and the very few students like me or perhaps future students like me that are lacking in such important knowledge until it is practically too late will have to struggle feeling as though they are playing the ultimate game of catch-up because of something that is completely out of their control. While I do realize that breaking into the music world is very difficult for everyone in general, there is a much smaller percentage of people that are attempting to follow their dream with such a big disadvantage and even fewer still that don't even get the opportunity to consider this route as a possible dream, because of the lack of resources around them. To be quite honest this situation creates an emotion even stronger than frustration, but I am compelled to exercise a certain amount of control given the context in which I am discussing this subject.

Here is a link to the organization if you wish to learn more about it yourself: Sphinx's Website


Dave B. said...

Jaunter, I was very moved by reading your article and I applaud your candor on the subject. I would like to discuss this matter further, but I feel like I need to learn more about it and absorb what you wrote first. In any case, I don't think there's a need to restrain your emotion and passion on the subject - let's hash it out as a class!

Kyle Siddons said...

Jaunter, this is such a very important point! It would be very easy to look at such an organization and see the good they do and be satisfied. You looked at this and saw the BIGGER issue!
Even though I am not looking at the same demographic, I, too, see that we are missing a large portion of the population. If the kind of cultural work that Sphinx and other organizations perform is centered around metropolitan areas, then there are a LOT of places that are getting missed. Moreover, we are missing the places that had very remote access to our art in the first place! By not reaching out to new areas, we risk letting classical music sink from a "known unknown" to an "unknown unknown."
It sounds like you have a might large mission in life, and I think that is very exciting!