Thursday, September 28, 2023 (Ann Arbor, MI) — MacArthur Fellow, Sphinx Organization founder, and pioneering poetjournalist Aaron P. Dworkin unveiled a new poem at the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra’s Opening Night performance on September 23, 2023. Inspired by themes from the orchestra’s 2023-24 season, Dworkin took the Hill Auditorium stage to deliver the work in front of a hushed audience, moments before Music Director Earl Lee led the orchestra in music by Joan Tower, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and Antonin Dvorak.
Since founding the Sphinx Organization in 1996, Dworkin and his wife Afa Sadykhly Dworkin have grown the nonprofit into a leading force for change in the performing arts, dedicated to advancing the development of young Black and Latino classical musicians. For the final round of Sphinx’s inaugural annual competition in 1997, the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra accompanied soloists in the final round, and the two organizations have enjoyed a close relationship ever since.
Prior to taking the stage for the Symphony’s 2023 opener, Dworkin remarked: “I am deeply honored to be able to join the [Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra] for this important celebration, given the deep history of partnership and collaboration we have had over decades of impacting audiences in our community.”
The text of the poem can be read in full:
Here a city thrives in the heartland
Whisper sonnets of transformation
And musical threads through
The fabric of time.
Hill Auditorium’s hallowed walls here
Breathe overtures in an audacious dance
Of harmonies colliding, embracing, engaging
The concertmaster’s bow caresses Liberty Street
Awakening tapestries of emotion
Electrified by the concerto’s potent invocation.
Hear each note
A raindrop in an endless storm of rhythm
State Street immersed in a vibrant cascade
Transcending the tangible
Enthralling the ear and soul’s realm.
The baton rises
Bridging souls and scores
Here an orchestra is poised
On the edge of creation
Music spills into a historic hall
Painting the air
With vibrations of connection.
The violas weep a melody
Lamenting in a language older than words
Hear them tell tales of loss and love
A resonance reaching out
Surrounding the shivering strings
Of Ann Arbor hearts.
Here the cellos answer
Their rich timber reverberating
Through the veins of community
Unseen measures of musicality
Weaving a blanket of sound
That envelops our city
Hear a wild duet of horns
Challenging the serene sky
Punctuated by the heartbeat of timpani
Each note a narrative
Each rest a silent echo
Each phrase a succulent memory.
Here in Ann Arbor
Music is not merely heard
It is lived, tasted, felt
In the pulse and sway of place
A premiere of change
Sculpting the air with rhythm and rhyme
Stitching life into the stillness
Downtown dances on the edges of reality
A frontier striking human divides
An atmosphere of symphony and story.
Hear what here sounds like.
Photo credit: Kelvin J. Baker