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creative:impact - Afa Dworkin's Distinguished Service To The Arts Throughout The World

Afa Dworkin
The Sphinx Organization

Last week, Aaron P. Dworkin was shown how much of a force he is in the creative industry.  His spouse, Afa S. Dworkin, has done her share to expand creative minds as well.  She is head of the Sphinx Organization and co-recepient of the Outstanding Service Medal at the upcoming pARTy 2019.  Afa talks about her journey with WEMU's David Fair and Arts Alliance CEO Deb Polich in this week's "creative:impact."

Deb Polich, President and CEO of the Arts Alliance

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of The Arts Alliance, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

About The pARTy 2019

Awarded annually, The Arts Alliance Medals for Arts, Sciences & Humanities honor and celebrate the extraordinary contributions and accomplishments of artists, creatives, individuals who live, work or attend school in Washtenaw County, Michigan.  Medal recipients are celebrated for exemplary achievements in advancing the arts, sciences and humanities and increasing public awareness of the arts + creative industries in the greater Ann Arbor area and beyond.  Medalists make their mark through their leadership, philanthropy and accomplishments setting the standard for excellence and serving as the example for others to follow.

William Bolcom & Joan Morris - Lifetime Achievement Medal 2019

The Lifetime Achievement Medal is presented in recognition of outstanding and sustained artistic and creative accomplishments within the arts, sciences and/or humanities receiving national and or international acclaim.

Together, they are the duo Bolcom & Morris, recording 25 albums and delighting audiences across the world performing songs from the ragtime era to the end of the 20th century.  They are known as generous creative collaborators and, as faculty at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, have mentored the next generation of musicians and performers.  William (Bill) Bolcom is a composer of concertos, sonatas, operas, symphonies, cabaret songs and much more.  National Medal of the Arts, Pulitzer Prize, Grammy Award, Composer of the Year are but a few of the accolades presented to him over the course of his career. He served on the faculty of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance as the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Composition for 35 years. Joan Morris is a chanteuse, a mezzo-soprano who has performed on stages and in cabarets across the world as she “projects not just a song, but the character singing it, and gives that character her own irresistibly funny and winning personality,” according to the Chicago Tribune.  Her book Let Me Sing and I’m Happy: The Memoir and Handbook of a Singing Actress has just been released by Pendragon Press. Morris writes “For forty years I’ve been privileged to sing the greatest songs from our American musical theater history – Kern, Berlin, Gershwin, Porter, and Rodgers and Hart. I was fortunate to find a musical partner, William Bolcom, who felt the same way, who helped me illuminate and bring to life the history and drama in each song.  Our approach gained us entry into the serious-music concert world. It helped us, in Schiller’s words, to ‘…unite that which fashion had sternly parted.’”  Morris taught voice and musical theater at the University of Michigan from 1981 – 2009.

Aaron P. and Afa S. Dworkin - Outstanding Service Medal 2019

Credit The Arts Alliance / a3arts.org
Afa and Aaron Dworkin

The Outstanding Service Medal recognizes outstanding leadership and significant contributions made to further the fields of the arts, sciences and humanities in Washtenaw County, statewide, nationally and/or internationally. Aaron P. and Afa S. Dworkin are an arts power couple.  They have built an international reputation as arts-focused social entrepreneurs, including as pioneering leaders advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion in the performing arts and in arts leadership.  Afa S. Dworkin is a cross-sector strategist driving national programming that promotes diversity in classical music.  She currently serves as president and artistic director of the Sphinx Organization, the nation’s leading organization transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.  She is one of Musical America’s Top 30 Influencers and Detroit Crain’s 40 Under 40. Aaron P. Dworkin is the founder of The Sphinx Organization, is a 2005 MacArthur Fellow, a member of National Council on the Arts and the former dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance.  The Dworkins received the Kennedy Center’s “Citizen Artist Award” recognizing leaders who present and produce the arts in their communities and deepen the effect of the arts and arts education in a demonstrated, transformational way at the local, state or national level.

Bill and Mary Kinley - Philanthropic Excellence Medal 2019

The Philanthropic Excellence Medal recognizes those giving of their time, talents and treasures to the arts science and humanities in Washtenaw County and beyond. Bill and Mary Kinley’s legacy as supporters of the arts is long, runs deep and crosses through many Washtenaw County communities.  They have given generously, served on boards, mentored staff, volunteered and worked in the trenches.  The short list of organizations they have impacted includes: the Riverside Art Center; The Ark; Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum; Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original; and the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, to name a few.  Even the work of the business owned and operated by Bill, Praxis Properties (formerly Phoenix Construction), crosses into the creative industries touching historic preservation and restoration.  The example of community leadership set by the Kinleys is influencing the next generation as their children are already following in their path.

About the Sphinx Organization

The Sphinx Organization is the Detroit-based national organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.  Led by Afa S. Dworkin, its President and Artistic Director, Sphinx programs reach over 100,000 students, as well as live and broadcast audiences of over two million annually.  Afa Dworkin’s work as the organization’s long time Artistic Director, and now President, has been recognized globally.  She was named one of the 30 Most Influential People by Musical America, Detroit’s “40 Under 40” by Crain’s Detroit Business, in addition to being a frequent speaker on the importance of inclusion and music education at conferences nationwide and abroad, including the League of American Orchestras, Chamber Music America, Americans for the Arts, International Arts and Ideas Festival and beyond.  Ms. Dworkin also serves as faculty for Roosevelt University’s Master’s Program in Performing Arts Administration.

The organization’s founding and mission were informed by the life experiences of Aaron Dworkin, who, as a young Black violinist, was acutely aware of the lack of diversity both on stage and in the audience in concert halls.  He founded Sphinx while an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, to address the stark under-representation of people of color in classical music.  President Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts, Aaron P. Dworkin is Professor for Art Entrepreneurship and Leadership at University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
Sphinx works to create positive change in the arts field and in communities across the country through a variety of programs organized into four main principles:

  • Education and Access
  • Artist Development
  • Performing Artists
  • Arts Leadership

About Afa S. Dworkin

Ms. Dworkin has delivered ongoing thought leadership through an extensive roster of speaking engagements including those at the International Arts & Ideas Festival, Independent Sector, Grantmakers in the Arts, Young Audiences Norway, Esmeraldas Festival in Ecuador, Chamber Music America, National Association for Schools of Music, League of American Orchestras, ICSOM, and Association of Canadian Orchestras. Former faculty at Clarkston Conservatory in Michigan, she serves as a lecturer at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance and as adjunct faculty at Roosevelt University’s Master’s in Arts Administration program, with past lectures at Bowling Green State University, Penn State and Central Michigan University.  Ms. Dworkin also builds capacity for the midwestern arts community as a trustee for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Creative Many Michigan and CultureSource.

Born in Moscow and raised in Azerbaijan, Ms. Dworkin’s music training began with the Soviet training at the prestigious Azerbaijan National Conservatory where she honed her craft under the tutelage of the region’s leading artists.  She subsequently joined the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra as an entering freshman at the University of Michigan School of Music, also earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Violin Performance with High Honors.  Her career as a performer has taken her to Russia, Switzerland, Austria, and the United States.  She is an avid chef and foodie with her culinary accomplishments simply known as “Afa Food.”  Ms. Dworkin makes her home in Ann Arbor, MI, with her husband Aaron Dworkin (an internationally renowned leader in cultural entrepreneurship) in their home, Alegria (“Joy”) in Ann Arbor, MI.  Her youngest son Amani attends the A2STEAM school, plays piano and soccer on the Liverpool junior league and step-son Noah attends the Ross Business School at the University of Michigan.

22nd Annual Sphinx Competition Finals Concert

Saturday, February 2nd at 7:30pm

Join us for an evening of music and celebration!  Watch top young musicians compete for $50,000 Robert Frederick Smith prize.  Vote live for $5,000 Audience Choice Award.  See performances by EXIGENCE vocal ensemble & Sphinx Symphony Orchestra.  All are welcome!  Optional $5 donation.  Tickets can be purchased here.

The pARTy 2019

Sphinx Organization

Afa S. Dworkin

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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