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This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the Sphinx Organization and Competition. Especially in these trying times, to be able to celebrate such a remarkable organization and mission, even from afar, is an immense gift. Happy birthday, Sphinx! I will miss you this weekend. Here is my #SphinxStory:

I stumbled upon the Sphinx Organization almost by accident. As a young teenager, I overheard a girl in my youth orchestra talking about the Sphinx Competition one Saturday afternoon during a rehearsal break, so I was dimly aware of the organization’s general mission; but it wasn’t until the summer of 2002 when I met Gareth Johnson (the most recent Junior Division winner) that I seriously considered competing. Gareth urged me to apply, and when the deadline rolled around later that year, I gathered my materials and submitted them to my first large-scale competition. I had always been skeptical of those who seemed to thrive on the dirty excitement of the competition circuit — it seemed to me an extremely unhealthy way to look at both music and life — but the message behind Sphinx appeared to be a noble one. I never expected, however, to uncover an entirely new family of musicians, a newfound confidence in my playing, and a sense of pride in what I stood for and represented to the musical community at large.

Because, at its heart, the Sphinx Competition is not just a competition. It is a place for musicians who look a little different than your average American orchestra member/soloist/audience member/etc. to convene, share musical warmth, represent their communities, be ambassadors for our great art form, and become family. By entering and winning the Sphinx Competition in 2003 and 2007, I was not only given the opportunities to solo with some of the country’s best symphony orchestras, but I was able to bring the music I had been so passionate about since the age of two (thanks to Itzhak Perlman and the creative minds behind Sesame Street) to people who might not have otherwise had the chance to be exposed to it. I met other musicians who looked like me, which felt strangely comforting considering I had never given the matter of race much thought, at least with regard to the field of classical music. My parents raised me to be a strong, independent, savvy woman, someone who could do anything she set her mind to — the color of my skin, though something I had certainly been aware of from time to time over the course of my childhood, was never once something I viewed as an obstacle. And yet, upon entering the Sphinx community, it became a point of pride, and a source of great inspiration: as a Hispanic violinist, I now had a responsibility to share everything that had been given to me with communities across the country. Within the blink of an eye, I had a whole network of musicians — a new family — behind me, and every time I step onstage, my aim is to make them proud.

I owe so much of my professional success to the Sphinx Organization: it gave me my first taste of the career and life I had fantasized about since first picking up a violin. More importantly, I am so beyond grateful to everyone involved in the organization for helping to uncover a piece of myself I hadn’t even known I was missing. I am proud to be an ambassador for classical music and indebted to Sphinx for allowing me, with their help and encouragement, to step into that role, one I hope to occupy for the rest of my life.

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