Notes from the Norton Center: Sphinx Virtuosi’s music resonates academically and socially

Posted by Centre News in Academics, Campus, News, Norton Center 03 Oct 2013

Next week, Centre’s Norton Center for the Arts welcomes an esteemed and talented group of classical musicians that is changing the face of classical music in America—both literally and figuratively. Specifically, the Sphinx Orchestra and Catalyst Quartet’s members are black and Latino musicians who have participated in the Sphinx program, an innovative initiative designed to increase diversity in classical music.

Like many Norton Center events, the performance in Newlin Hall is just the beginning. While the Sphinx Virtuosi are in Danville, they will be hosting events both on-campus and in the Danville community designed to start and continue conversations about diversity in classical music.

On the morning of October 10, the ensemble will lead a discussion of increasing diversity in the arts titled “How Color Blind is Classical Music: Perspectives from African-and Latin-American Cultures” in Vahlkamp Theatre. The following morning, at the Boyle County Public Library, the group will host an instrument petting zoo and mini-performance.

ade_williams_sphinx_nortoncenterAs part of many Norton Center shows, faculty often write accompanying information that highlights the academic importance of a particular performance. This blending of art and academics began in October of 2011, when the Norton Center hosted Latin American artists Luciana Souza, Cyro Baptista and Romero Lubambo and the College was just launching its Latin American studies minor.

“We thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to connect what was going on at Centre with the artists on the Norton Center stage,” says Norton Center Executive Director Steve Hoffman. “These articles are posted on the Norton Center’s blog and are also included in the CentreStage program book audience members receive—this allows the general public to also gain a deeper understanding.”

For Hoffman, this faculty input is important in demonstrating the relevance of Norton Center artists to the larger campus and Danville community.

“Faculty help us in answering the general question ‘so what?’,” he explains. “Each article adds information and insights that more deeply connect our community to the artist, the production or a theme. Centre faculty have a great way of making these connections enjoyable and interesting.”

In preparation for the Sphinx Virtuosi, Assistant Professor of Philosophy Eva Maria Cadavid and Assistant Professor of Anthropology and chair of Gender Studies and African & African American Studies Program Andrea Abrams wrote the following:

It is no secret how important role models are in the choices and development of children and young adults. When asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we look to those we admire, that we identify with, and often our first dreams are of becoming just like they are, doing what they do. In a nation as diverse as the United States, with an African-American population of about 14% and a rising Latino population (about 17%), it is startling that less than 5% of classical musicians are Black or Latino. Read more…

Above all, the “Notes from the Faculty” are meant to offer students and audience members an opportunity to dig beyond the single performance they see.

“We hope these articles lead the reader on an exploration of the artist(s) and offer them information they may not have discovered on their own,” Hoffman says. “Typically, this information demonstrates that there are more relevant connections between the artist and the community than one might at first expect.”

To read more from the Norton Center’s blog, click here.

By Mariel Smith

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