Ensemble to perform works by Xavier Foley and Alberto Ginastera; Sphinx Virtuosi musicians will then merge with the orchestra to perform works by Mendelssohn and Jaakko Kuusisto conducted by Music Director Osmo Vänskä 

Concert on Friday, June 3 to be livestreamed at minnesotaorchestra.org and broadcast on Twin Cities PBS and YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio

Sphinx Virtuosi, l-r: Bill Neri, Clayton Penrose-Whitmore, Celia Hatton, Ruben Rengel, Benjamin Harris, Kayla Cabrera, Thomas Mesa, Robert Switala, Meredith Riley, Patricia Quintero Garcia, Eri Snowden-Rodriguez, Emilia Mettenbrink, Alex Gonzalez, Lady Jess, Laura Andrade, Ismael Guerrero Bombut, Maïthéna Girault, and Christopher Johnson.

MAY 19, 2022 — The Sphinx Virtuosi will make its Orchestra Hall debut in Minneapolis when it joins forces with the Minnesota Orchestra and Music Director Osmo Vänskä for performances Thursday, June 2, Friday, June 3, and Saturday, June 4. The concert on Friday, June 3 will be broadcast live on Twin Cities PBS and YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio, and livestreamed at minnesotaorchestra.org.

The Sphinx Virtuosi is a professional self-conducted chamber ensemble and the flagship performing entity of the Sphinx Organization – the leading social justice non-profit dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Comprised of eighteen accomplished Black and Latinx artists, a critical aim of the Sphinx Virtuosi is to evolve and transform the face of classical music through artistic excellence, pioneering programming, and impassioned community engagement, its members serving as cultural and diversity ambassadors on critically acclaimed national tours. 

In Minnesota, the Sphinx Virtuosi will open the concerts with a performance of Ev’ry Voice for string orchestra by bassist and composer Xavier Foley, himself a Sphinx Competition laureate. Commissioned by the Sphinx Organization in 2020, the piece pays homage to James Weldon Johnson’s poem Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing set to music by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson that is widely considered the Black National Anthem. The ensemble has previously performed this work on a 2021 national tour, including Carnegie Hall. The New York Times called the performance of the work “beguiling,” saying it “set a reflective tone.” Ev’ry Voice  will be followed by the final movement of Alberto Ginastera’s Concerto for Strings. The members of the ensemble will then be seated within the Minnesota Orchestra to perform the remainder of the program: Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings featuring Concertmaster Erin Keefe alongside pianist Juho Pohjonen and the world premiere of the late Jaakko Kuusisto’s final work, with edits compiled by his brother Pekka Kuusisto.

The concert performances are part of a broader partnership between the Sphinx Organization and the Minnesota Orchestra with the concerts the culmination of a week-long residency by the Sphinx Virtuosi musicians and a week-long learning retreat attended by nine cohort members from Sphinx’s LEAD (Leaders in Excellence, Arts and Diversity) program that aims to evolve the industry landscape by empowering the next generation of Black and Latinx executive leaders. During the retreat the cohort will take part in collaborative conversations with the Orchestra’s leadership on topics including fund development, board governance, community engagement, artistic planning, and more. The cohort will also hold panel discussions on Thursday, June 1 and Friday, June 2, before the concerts during the Sphinx Virtuosi residency. Additionally, the Minnesota Orchestra participates in the Sphinx Orchestral Partner Auditions and is a member of the Sphinx-led National Alliance for Audition Support.

While Sphinx has partnerships with leading professional orchestras and ensembles throughout the country, President & Artistic Director, Afa S. Dworkin, says the Minnesota Orchestra residency is especially intensive. 

“We are excited about our partnership with the Minnesota Orchestra and feel that it represents an important expression of commitment toward our collective work toward a more representative, authentic, collaborative, and vibrant future,” says Ms. Dworkin. “We all look toward a future where our orchestras are as vibrant and diverse as our communities and where American classical music represents the historically excluded voices that help us shape the future of our collective sound.”

The Sphinx Virtuosi is well known in the Minneapolis and St. Paul music communities having performed in both cities, including the Ordway Center in St. Paul on its most recent “Tracing Visions” tour. Several members of the ensemble have performed as guest musicians with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra including violinist Emilia Mettenbrink, who also frequently plays with  the Minnesota Orchestra.

President & CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra, Michelle Miller Burns, says the residency and partnerships with Sphinx have been an important element in the orchestra’s efforts to introduce initiatives that disrupt systemic racism within the organization, a commitment fortified following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020 and the Orchestra’s efforts to acknowledge the pain felt throughout Minneapolis and beyond.

“The Sphinx Organization is a game-changing force in the orchestral field, and we greatly value their pioneering work in expanding opportunities for artists, composers, and administrators,” says Ms. Miller Burns. “Partnering with Sphinx’s LEAD cohort over the last several years has led to a tremendously beneficial exchange of ideas within our organization. To now have the Sphinx Virtuosi debut onstage at Orchestra Hall is the capstone of a multi-year project that we are thrilled to share with audiences.”


Thursday, June 2, 2022, 11 a.m. CT/ Orchestra Hall
Friday, June 3, 2022, 8 p.m. CT/ Orchestra Hall *
Saturday, June 4, 2022, 8 p.m. CT / Orchestra Hall

Minnesota Orchestra
Sphinx Virtuosi
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Erin Keefe, violin
Juho Pohjonen, piano

FOLEY:  Ev’ry Voice
GINASTERA:  Finale furioso, from Concerto for Strings
MENDELSSOHN:  Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra
KUUSISTO:  Symphony [world premiere] 

*The Friday, June 3 performance will be broadcast live on Twin Cities PBS, YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio and livestreamed at minnesotaorchestra.org and on the Orchestra’s social media channels. 

Tickets: 612/371-5656, minnesotaorchestra.org


The Sphinx Organization is the social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Sphinx’s four program areas – Education & Access, Artist Development, Performing Artists, and Arts Leadership – form a pipeline that develops and supports diversity and inclusion in classical music at every level: music education, artists performing on stage, the repertoire and programing being performed, the communities represented in audiences, and the artistic and administrative leadership within the field. Sphinx programs reach more than 100,000 students and artists, as well as live and broadcast audiences of more than two million annually. Read more about Sphinx’s programs at SphinxMusic.org
View the “Sphinx Organization: A 25-year Journey” timeline here.


The Minnesota Orchestra, founded in 1903 and led since 2003 by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, ranks among America’s top symphonic ensembles, with a history of acclaimed performances in its home state and around the world; award-winning recordings, radio broadcasts, and educational programs; and a commitment to intentionally build concert programs to feature more works by composers of color, exploring music both contemporary and historic. The Orchestra presents about 175 programs in a typical season, most at Orchestra Hall, its home in downtown Minneapolis that was built in 1974, renovated in 2014, and is known for its modern design and acoustical brilliance. Learn more via minnesotaorchestra.org.