Music has incredible power, especially for youngsters experiencing challenges within their Detroit and Flint, Michigan, communities. The Sphinx Overture program offers free violins and group instruction to students ages 7 to 10, using the Suzuki Method, over the course of 30 weeks. The program’s goals are to increase the participants’ musical and performance abilities; their connection to classical music, as well as to the history and theory of music; plus their academic achievement. In fact, Sphinx created the program in 2006 to accommodate students’ interest and to bridge the gap between opportunities already available to intermediate students and the lack thereof for youngsters in these communities.
In addition to its focus on music, Overture also strives to increase participants’ self-esteem, teamwork, and scholastic aptitude—including math and reading skills. And, this approach is achieving impressive results. Teachers and administrators see a significant increase in the respect that Overture students have for themselves and for their peers. They also note improved classroom behavior and attention spans.
With outreach at 12 sites within Detroit and Flint, Overture has also become a crucial safety net for students in overburdened schools, as well as for their parents and families. One student who had trouble reading her music received new glasses, with help from Overture’s school and community service partners. The program also provides these youngsters with a sense of normalcy, particularly during times of neighborhood crisis.
Fostering the love of music that begins with Sphinx Overture, the program also provides additional arts enrichment activities. Through Overture and its partnerships with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Flint Institute of Music, students not only receive musical instruction for the first time, but gain access to scholarship information and resources for both private lessons and advanced musical instruction, as well. They also have the opportunity to attend the Sphinx Competition Honors and Finals Concerts free of charge. African-American and Latino string players of the highest caliber perform at these events. The older students serve as arts ambassadors to their younger peers, helping to provide these youth and their families with a deeper appreciation of the arts.
In an effort to continue the outreach of Sphinx Overture, the program also offers a successful week-long summer camp. Students receive arts education, daytime meals, and transportation to the Detroit area.
The opportunity to engage our students in a hands-on learning experience through a musical instrument is tremendously rewarding. Watching them find their voice through music and grow as young, confident, responsible, and creative citizens is a true privilege.Afa S. Dworkin President and Artistic Director, Sphinx Organization