Sphinx Virtuosi with the Catalyst Quartet

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Swasey Chapel | 7pm

The Sphinx Virtuosi (formerly Sphinx Chamber Orchestra) is a conductorless ensemble comprised of alumni from the Sphinx Competition for young Black and Latino string players whose mission is “transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.”“It is an orchestra of complete professionalism and winning personality” – San Francisco Classic Voice


Photography courtesy of the artist(s) and The Vail Series.

“It is an orchestra of complete professionalism and winning personality” – San Francisco Classic Voice

The national Sphinx Virtuosi tour is made possible with the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from Art Works, the MetLife Foundation, and Aetna. The 2013 Sphinx Virtuosi Composer-in-Residence Partnership was funded by a gift from Linda and Stuart Nelson.

The Sphinx Virtuosi and Catalyst Quartet
are exclusively represented in North America by
California Artists Management (

The Sphinx Virtuosi

The Sphinx Virtuosi is a conductor-less ensemble of soloists, comprising top alumni of the national Sphinx Competition for young Black and Latino string players. This unique group earned rave reviews from The New York Times during its highly acclaimed Carnegie Hall debut in December 2004. Allan Kozinn described the performance as “first-rate in every way” and the ensemble “produced a more beautiful, precise and carefully shaped sound than some fully professional orchestras that come through Carnegie Hall in the course of the year.”

The ensemble has returned to Carnegie Hall annually since 2006, presenting outstanding programs to sold-out halls of more than 2,800 and earning outstanding reviews from The Times each year. The Sphinx Virtuosi continues to garner critical acclaim during its national tours in many of the country’s leading venues, including the Kennedy Center, New World Center, Harris Theater, Penn State University, Stanford University and the University of Michigan. The second national tour brought performances in thirteen venues as the Virtuosi have continued to increase their audience reach throughout the U.S.

Inspired by Sphinx’s overarching mission, the Sphinx Virtuosi work to advance diversity in classical music while engaging young and new audiences through performances of varied repertoire. Masterpieces by Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart and Tchaikovsky are performed alongside the more seldom presented works by composers of color, including Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, George Walker, Michael Abels and Astor Piazzolla.

Members of the Sphinx Virtuosi have completed and continue to pursue their studies at the nation’s top music schools, including Juilliard, Curtis, Eastman, Peabody, Harvard, and the University of Michigan. Several members now hold professional orchestral positions with the Oregon, Grand Rapids and San Antonio symphonies. Roster members have been named Laureates of other prestigious international competitions, including the Queen Elizabeth and Yehudi Menuhin. Sphinx Virtuosi members have also performed as soloist with the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra. Principal players are members of the Catalyst Quartet, which independently has garnered acclaim for its performances around the world.

The Sphinx Virtuosi’s first recording was released in 2011 on the White Pine label with music of Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Gabriela Lena Frank and George Walker.

The Catalyst Quartet

Hailed by the New York Times at their Carnegie Hall debut as “invariably energetic and finely burnished…playing with earthy vigor,” the Catalyst Quartet, prizewinner of the Gianni Bergamo Classical Music Award 2012 (Switzerland), is comprised of top Laureates and alumni of the internationally acclaimed Sphinx Competition. “Electrifying… Wildly colorful and exploding with life” – Washington Post.

Founded by the Sphinx Organization, the Catalyst Quartet combines a serious commitment to education with a passion for contemporary works. Their mission is to advance diversity in classical music and inspire new and young audiences with dynamic performances of cutting-edge repertoire by a wide range of composers.

In addition to leading the Sphinx Virtuosi on the annual national tours, Catalyst Quartet maintains a busy performing schedule of its own. Last season the quartet had concert tours in Virginia, Hawaii, California and Minnesota, and performed on the cafe series at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Upcoming engagements include the Pop-Up Series at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, concerts in Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Washington DC, and a spring tour in Mexico and California.

The quartet has held residencies and given master classes both domestically and abroad at the University of Michigan, Rice University, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, In Harmony –El Sistema in London, and the University of South Africa, to name a few. They participated in the Juilliard String Quartet Seminar and have performed at the Grand Canyon Music Festival and the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival. Catalyst Quartet serves as principal faculty at the Sphinx Performance Academy at Oberlin College and Northwestern University, and its members are visiting teaching artists at the Sphinx Preparatory Music Institute, hosted by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and made possible in part through the generous support of Stuart and Maxine Frankel.

Catalyst Quartet has been featured in The Strad and Strings magazines, on American Public Media’s Performance Today, and on Houston Public Radio and Detroit Public Radio and Television.

The Sphinx Mission is “Transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.” Expect the lives of, not only the Sphinx musicians, but also our Denison audience to be transformed on November 5.