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U-M alum to serve on National Council on the Arts

Violinist, arts educator and founder of Detroit-based Sphinx Organization, Aaron Dworkin, has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve on the National  Council on the Arts. Dworkin was nominated in December by President Barack Obama.

The council is the advisory body to the National Endowment for the Arts and approves grants and agency policies.

“I am deeply honored that I was considered and selected by the President  and confirmed by the Senate,” said Dworkin (photo left). “It is my hope that I can play a role in advocating for the arts in our society and access for all young people.”

Dworkin, who earned a bachelor’s degree in violin (’97) and a master’s degree in music (’98) from the University of Michigan, will join the council, which is responsible for recommending grants, establishing funding guidelines, and offering leadership initiatives. In addition, the council advises the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Current council members include a museum director, country music singer, arts patron, author, jazz musician, film industry executive and visual artist.

Generally, appointees to the council are selected for their record of distinguished service and preeminence in the arts. In the appointment announcement, the White House cited Dworkin’s breakthrough work with the Sphinx Organizations, which aims to increase the number of minority students pursuing careers in classical music.

Founded by Dworkin in 1996, the arts group has grown in stature, influence, and reflects Dworkin’s vision to add racial and cultural diversity to the world of professional classical musicians. To that aim, Sphinx Organization conducts summer training programs for string players and music education outreach programs in Detroit public schools, where many students are African American and Latino.

He has often told the story of how he was at an orchestral concert in U-M’s Hill Auditorium, when he realized there were no minorities on stage. Dworkin, an African American who was adopted and raised by white Jewish parents, came up with the idea of a competition for classical string players, from junior high through college with the top finalists receiving scholarships, musical training, and, if needed, the use of a high-quality instrument. Acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma is among professional musicians who have offered musical training for the Sphinx competitors.

Dworkin has served on the board of the Ann Arbor-based University Musical Society.  In 2005, he was named a MacArthur Fellow. He is recipient of the National Governors Association, and that same year was awarded the Distinguished Service to State Government Award. The Detroit Symphony presented Dworkin with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

Detroit Free Press article:

The Washington Post article: