Sphinx Partnership Fosters Inclusion

Thursday, Feb 18, 2021
Juilliard Journal
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A screenshot from a Zoom room with seven people
A screen from the Sphinx LEAD seminar at Juilliard

Sphinx LEAD was born of the need for diversity in arts leadership

By Christina Salgado

Collaboration and working with community partners when furthering EDIB—equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging—is essential to institutional change. There is strength in working together to develop programming with a purpose that serves all partners.

In 2019, Juilliard began collaborating with the Sphinx Organization, an international nonprofit that develops and supports diversity and inclusion in classical music. This collaboration includes three initiatives dedicated to empowering the next generation of leaders and artists. We recently reported on Sphinx Performance Academy (SPA), a summer strings program for 11- to 17-year-olds that not only provides master classes and private lessons but also challenges participants to think about their identity and the arts as well as how they can influence social change. There's also SphinxConnect, a convening of music world leaders that emphasizes the value of being open to continued learning.

Another initiative is Sphinx LEAD (Leaders in Excellence, Arts & Diversity), which was born of the need for diversity in leadership throughout the arts world. Each year, up to 10 candidates are selected for this program, which was designed to provide arts administrators of color with mentorship and networking opportunities. Over the course of two years, each cohort participates in sessions at eight arts organizations and conservatories around the country—including Juilliard. This year’s Juilliard session took place virtually in the fall and included workshops on conflict management, fundraising, and developing EDIB efforts through community organizing. Overall, the 2020 LEAD retreats welcomed and were led by 162 industry leaders and arts luminaries including 21 (faculty, staff, and students) from Juilliard. 

Although the sessions are built for participants to explore specific leadership skills, the exchanges between the LEADers and the Juilliard community highlighted the power of connection and the need for the industry to continue working together to enact change. Participant Kristal Pacific, director of social equity and grantmaking at Opera America, captured this connection. “Spending time at Juilliard with my colleagues of color—thereby seeing myself reflected—was one of the most valuable parts for me,” she said. “It was a pleasure to speak candidly, openly, and honestly. There was such talent and brilliance in that Zoom room that I walked away with the utmost joy.”

This partnership with Sphinx is helping to deepen Juilliard’s commitment to supporting musicians, artists, and administrative leaders in an effort to change the landscape of the artistic field at large. Collaboration is not just about the action of creating something with another person or group, it’s also about what else is learned from this work together. That is what has been truly special and inspiring about this work so far.

Christina Salgado is director for equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives