President & Artistic Director
Afa Dworkin is a musical thought leader and cross-sector strategist driving national programming that promotes diversity in classical music. Named one of Musical America’s Top 30 Influencers in the nation and Detroit Crain’s 40 Under 40, she currently serves as President and Artistic Director of the Sphinx Organization, the nation’s leading organization transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. In this role, she oversees all fundraising, strategic and artistic initiatives through which Sphinx expands access to classical music education and supports a national roster of distinguished musicians of color, while annually reaching 10,000 through its programming and more than 2 million through live and broadcast audiences.
During her tenure, Ms. Dworkin has expanded the organization’s international partner network to 50+ foundations and leading enterprises, resulting in the organization’s most successful fundraising campaign in its twenty-year history. Under her leadership, her team’s national artistic network has also grown to 30+ symphony orchestras, enabling Sphinx to continue scaling its programming to new audiences worldwide. The strength of Ms. Dworkin’s leadership across sectors and national divides is informed by her musical training, 20+ years of experience in the field, as well as her international corporate experience as a trilingual interpreter and Executive Assistant to the President of ARCO, The International Oil and Gas Company in Baku, Azerbaijan.
In addition to her role at Sphinx, Ms. Dworkin has helped to shape the national classical music landscape as a multi-year orchestra grant review panelist for the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, 3Arts Awards, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the MetLife Awards administered by The League of American Orchestras. Beyond the orchestral community, she has aided grant review for the Surdna Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Charlotte Arts and Sciences Council, Independent Sector’s American Express NGen Awards, and numerous state councils across the United States.
Ms. Dworkin has delivered ongoing thought leadership through an extensive roster of speaking engagements including those at the International Arts & Ideas Festival, Independent Sector, Grantmakers in the Arts, Young Audiences Norway, Esmeraldas Festival in Ecuador, Chamber Music America, National Association for Schools of Music, League of American Orchestras, ICSOM, and Association of Canadian Orchestras. Former faculty at Clarkston Conservatory in Michigan, she serves as a lecturer at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance and as adjunct faculty at Roosevelt University’s Master’s in Arts Administration program, with past lectures at Bowling Green State University, Penn State and Central Michigan University. Ms. Dworkin also builds capacity for the midwestern arts community as a trustee for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Creative Many Michigan and CultureSource.
Born in Moscow and raised in Azerbaijan, Ms. Dworkin’s music training began with the Soviet training at the prestigious Azerbaijan National Conservatory where she honed her craft under the tutelage of the region’s leading artists. She subsequently joined the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra as an entering freshman at the University of Michigan School of Music, also earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Violin Performance with High Honors. Her career as a performer has taken her to Russia, Switzerland, Austria, and the United States. She is an avid chef and foodie with her culinary accomplishments simply known as “Afa Food.” Ms. Dworkin makes her home in Ann Arbor, MI, with her husband Aaron Dworkin (an internationally renowned leader in cultural entrepreneurship) in their home, Alegria (“Joy”) in Ann Arbor, MI. Her youngest son Amani attends the A2STEAM school, plays piano and soccer on the Liverpool junior league and step-son Noah attends the Ross Business School at the University of Michigan.