Published: July 7, 2023 By ,

Pictured: 16-year-old Savonte Vaughn plays viola at the Imig Music building. Video by Nico Goda.

This summer, young string musicians from across the country came together at the College of Music­ to hone their craft and advance a culturally diverse future of music at the Sphinx Performance Academy (SPA) summer camp.

The Sphinx Organization, launched in 1997 in Detroit, aims to empower string musicians from underrepresented communities nationwide and prepare them for professional careers in classical music. To expand its repertoire of offerings, the organization introduced SPA in 2004—which hosts a series of full scholarship summer camps for Black and Latinx students, ages 11–17.

The College of Music partnered with SPA to host their summer intensive this June. This is the first time the organization has hosted their program at a flagship university. Other Sphinx collaborators include the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City and the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to roll back affirmative action, educators nationwide are prioritizing diversity initiatives. But the need to address the issue isn't new, especially among musicians. 

A 2016 study from The League of American Orchestras looked at 500 American orchestras and found that less than 15% of musicians were non-white.

“There is a serious issue of underrepresentation in classical music,” said SPA Director of Education Ana Abrantes. “We're trying to address this issue across the country, and that has to come from youth.”