Sphinx Winner a Confident Soloist
Gareth Johnson wins senior division laureate
A little expert advice from an eavesdropping Leonard Slatkin is all it took to help 24-year-old African American violinist Gareth Johnson win Senior Division first place laureate at the 13th annual Sphinx Competition in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan, in February. During rehearsal, Johnson says, “I popped the door open real quick to make sure one of the competitors wasn’t listening to me—because I felt like they were stealing some tricks from me—and actually the great Leonard Slatkin was outside the door listening to me.”
Slatkin, an old friend of Johnson’s mother, offered him pointers and encouragement. “He was like ‘Hey, if you win this, we’ll play together,’” Johnson says. “So that was inspirational, you know?”
For the grand-prize winner, the Sphinx Competition for minority players awards scholarships, master classes, instrument loans, performance opportunities with major orchestras, and even a recording deal with the Naxos label. Johnson is hoping to record his finals-winning Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto, No. 3; work in the fall toward an artist diploma at the Juilliard School; and take on the classical music world as a soloist.
“I feel that I am one of the people that should be doing this, and I feel very comfortable doing it,” Johnson says. “I’m absolutely ready to be a soloist at this point.”
For a complete list of competition winners, visit sphinxmusic.org.