When the Napa Valley Festival del Sole opens for its ninth season on July 11, the celebration of classical music will showcase a new resident orchestra.

The Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, based in Detroit, will lend its musical support to seven of the 17 concerts held throughout the Napa Valley during the 10-day festival.

The unique 60-member orchestra, the only all black and Latino professional orchestra in the world, is composed of top musicians from Atlanta, Puerto Rico and elsewhere around the country who come together once or twice a year.

"The membership of black and Latino musicians is combined at 4 percent in orchestras throughout the country," said Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, artistic director of the Sphinx Symphony. "We pull the members from different orchestras, faculty members of music schools and high-level freelancers."

The symphony will perform alongside superstar violinist Joshua Bell on opening night at the Castello di Amorosa winery in Calistoga, as well as with renowned violinist Pinchas Zukerman on July 12 at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville.

That concert will be repeated July 15 at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park.

"We're grateful to the Festival del Sole for inviting us to partner in this way," Dworkin said. "What's really exciting is the opportunity that our musicians have to collaborate with musicians like Pinchas Zukerman and Joshua Bell."

The Sphinx Virtuosi, a conductor-less, 18-member chamber orchestra, will be featured at a concert July 14 at Opus One Winery in Oakville. Members of the orchestra will be spotlighted as soloists in that program.

Some of these soloists were winners of the annual Sphinx Competition, which was launched in 1998.

"We're going to feature one of the former winners, a 16-year-old violinist who won two years ago and now studies at Curtis (Institute, in Philadelphia)," Dworkin said. "We also have a mezzo-soprano, whose career has really taken off."

The organization's founder, classically trained violinist Aaron Dworkin, launched the competition as a way to increase diversity and inclusion in classical music.

"As a student, he thought the way to make a difference would be to galvanize and bring together young talent through a competition," said Sadykhly Dworkin, who is married to Aaron.

"They would compete, then receive educational opportunities and mentorship," Sadykhly Dworkin added.

The formation of the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra grew out of the annual competition. The orchestra comes together each February as the mentoring ensemble for the competition.

A winner of the most recent Sphinx Competition — bass player Xavier Foley — will perform at 11 a.m. July 15 at the Jarvis Conservatory in Napa as part of the festival's annual Bouchaine Young Artist Concert.

"He's 19 and he's a current student at the Curtis Institute," Sadykhly Dworkin said. "We're coming up with a very interesting program, with some elements of jazz."

Through the years, the Sphinx Symphony has added a training program for elementary students in Detroit, and summer camps for middle school and high school students who have talent but few resources.

"We started to look at the pipeline at an earlier stage," she said. "How do we make the pool even larger and remove the barriers?"

Recently, the Sphinx organization has started to reap the benefit of those efforts, with alumni of their educational programs going on to win the national competition.

"It's encouraging to know that we're moving the needle," Sadykhly Dworkin said. "It's growing steadily and slowly. That's been exciting, to see the pipeline grow."

The Napa Valley Festival del Sole, which has invited the Russian National Orchestra to serve as its resident orchestra in the past, is excited about the role the Sphinx will play in this year's festival.

"Having admired the work of Aaron Dworkin for many years, we are delighted to finally have an opportunity to present Sphinx's all-star orchestra," said Rick Walker, the festival's co-founder and director. "Their purpose and artistry perfectly align with Festival del Sole's mission of promoting education and excellence in the arts."

The orchestra also will perform at the final concert, an Opera Gala to be held July 20 at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville that will showcase two opera stars performing songs and arias from beloved Italian operas.

For a complete listing of concerts and ticket prices, go to festivaldelsole.org.

<i>Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com </i>


The North Bay is alive with the sound of classical music this summer, thanks to top-notch talents scheduled to perform.

<b>Summer 2014 MasterCard Performance Series</b>

The music classical music festival takes place at Sonoma State University's Green Music Center:

- The Santa Rosa Symphony with folk singer Judy Collins performs an Independence Day program July 4 that concludes with fireworks.

- The San Francisco Symphony will perform an all-Tchaikovsky program with fireworks at 8 p.m. July 26

- Napa Valley's Festival del Sole presents violinist Pinchas Zukerman with the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra on July 15

- The National Youth Orchestra of the United States, led by David Robertson, performs with violinist Gil Shaham on Aug. 2 as part of Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute

- PianoSonoma presents works of the piano repertoire on July 27 and Aug. 3.

Information: gmc.sonoma.edu.

<b>Mendocino Music Festival</b>

The focus of this year's festival July 13 to 26 is on Johann Sebastian Bach, starting with a four-day Bachfest July 13 to 16 that explores the life and art of J.S. Bach.

- Bach and Beer at 2 p.m. July 13

- Bach at the Keyboard at 3 p.m. July 14

- Bach's Unaccompanied Suites at 3 p.m. July 15; and an all-Bach concert by the Festival Chamber Players h at 8 p.m. July 16.

There will also be other orchestra and chamber music concerts:

- Mozart's "Don Giovanni" opera on July 18

- Various blues, jazz and country rock concerts.

Information: mendocinomusic.org.

<b>Music in the Vineyards</b>

This chamber music festival, celebrating its 20th anniversary season, runs Aug. 1 to 24 at various Napa Valley wineries. Highlights include:

- Midsummer Mystique, an anniversary celebration at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 2 at Clos Pegase in Calistoga, featuring food, wine and music.

- A series dedicated to the Romantic style of music.

- An expanded weekend of concerts Aug. 15 to 17 at nine different wineries

- A closing night concert Aug. 24 at Clos Pegase, followed by a celebration at Meadowood Resort in St. Helena

Information: musicinthevineyards.org.