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A Kansas City violist will compete in a prestigious national contest for Black and Latino musicians

CM graduate student, violist Victor Diaz was announced this week as being one of 20 exceptional Black and Latinx string players who will complete for nearly $100,000 in prizes later this month.
Park University International Center for Music
Violist Victor Diaz, a graduate student at The International Center for Music at Park University, is one of 20 exceptional Black and Latino string players who will complete for nearly $100,000 in prizes.

Park University graduate student Victor Diaz was named one of 11 senior semifinalists in this month's Sphinx Competition, hosted annually in Detroit. The top award is $50,000, but Diaz has another prize in mind: Inspiring more Hispanic kids to discover classical music.

When Victor Diaz left home in Bogota, Colombia, several years ago to study viola in Kansas City, it was his dream to enter a national music competition.

Now, Diaz is one of 20 string players selected to compete in the Sphinx Competition later this month.

The annual event held in Detroit offers young Black and Latino musicians a chance to compete under the guidance of internationally-renowned judges, and to perform with and receive mentorship from established professional musicians.

Diaz is one of 11 performers in the competition's senior division, which includes ages 18-30. The top prize is $50,000.

Though Diaz started his musical career playing the violin, he says he was intrigued by the deep, enigmatic quality of the viola.

"Usually in an orchestra or chamber music, the viola is more supportive, but the amazing solos that the violas get in the orchestra and chamber music are very, very remarkable," Diaz says. "Everybody is kind of waiting for the viola solo because it's usually very deep and very meaningful."

Diaz hopes the Sphinx Competition in particular will help a new generation of musicians see more Hispanic people in orchestras.

"For me, it's a great celebration of diversity to go and meet with people that look like me, but also are exceptional," Diaz says. "(It's) an amazing organization that helps people from different backgrounds to succeed in the classical music world."

The competition is also an excuse for Diaz to network with other young performers who share his passion for classical music.

“It’s a very good opportunity to showcase our talents," he says. "And to be able to be in this type of competitions keeps me very, very focused on practicing — really devoting my time towards getting better every day.”

When Diaz is not rehearsing, he teaches a music class in Spanish for underserved kids through the program String Sprouts Kansas City. Most of his students are second-generation Hispanic kids who attend classes with their parents.

“It's my dream to educate as much as I can,” Diaz says, “and just also making sure that they they get the same opportunities of high quality education."

The 27th Sphinx Competition takes place Jan. 24-27, 2024.

  • Victor Diaz, Park University graduate student
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