The Festival Series opens Sunday (Sept. 13) with the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra. The performance, at 3 p.m. in Kobacker Hall of the Moore Musical Arts Center, is also the Louise F. Rees Memorial Concert.
The first concert of the group’s 2009 national tour will feature special guests Elena Urioste on violin and the Harlem String Quartet. Conducting the orchestra will be Damon Gupton.
The orchestra, comprising top alumni of the national Sphinx Competition for young black and Latino string players, will perform a diverse program of repertoire including works by African-American and Latino composers.
The afternoon program will include “Divertimento for Strings in F Major” by Mozart. Urioste will solo with the orchestra on “Autumn” from “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,” by Astor Piazzolla; “Mi Menor Conga,” by Guido Lópes-Gavilán; “Hellbound Highball” from "At the Octoroon Balls” by Wynton Marsalis featuring the Harlem String Quartet, and “Serenade for Strings” by Tchaikovsky.
The Sphinx Organization is a national, nonprofit organization whose goal is to help overcome the cultural stereotype of classical music and to encourage participation by blacks and Latinos in the field. It was founded in 1996 by Aaron Dworkin, a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Michigan.
Urioste was recently selected by Symphony magazine as an emerging artist to watch, and has been hailed by critics and audiences alike for her rich tone and the nuanced lyricism of her playing. First-place winner in both the junior and senior divisions of the Sphinx Competition, she made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2004 as a featured soloist in the inaugural Sphinx Gala Concert.
The Harlem String Quartet, whose members are winners of the Sphinx Competition, received rave reviews from the New York Times after its debut in fall 2006 at the Sphinx concert at Carnegie Hall.
A native of Detroit, Gupton was assistant conductor of the Kansas City Symphony from 2006-08. He received his bachelor’s degree in music education from Michigan and a diploma from the drama division at Juilliard. He studied conducting with David Zinman and Murry Sidlin at the Aspen Music Festival and with Leonard Slatkin at the National Conducting Institute in Washington, D.C.
As an actor, Gupton has had roles in television, film and on stage, including the late Wendy Wasserstein’s “An American Daughter,” “True History and Real Adventures” and “Treason.” He starred opposite Tony Award-winner Phylicia Rashad in the world premiere of Tracey Scott Wilson’s critically acclaimed “The Story” at New York’s Public Theater. His television credits include “Law and Order,” “Conviction,” “Third Watch” and “Hack.”
The popular Festival Forum, hosted by Gupton, will be held at 2:15 p.m. Sunday in Bryan Recital Hall. The forum is an informative half-hour to introduce audience members to the performers.
Tickets are $36, $28 and $20 for adults and $29, $22 and $15 for students. For subscription information, call the box office weekdays from noon-6 p.m. at 2-8171.