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January 19, 2023

Michigan Connections Run Deep in Sphinx Symphony Orchestra’s First US Tour


Sphinx Symphony Orchestra with Exigence

Now in its 25th year, the Sphinx Organization is the Detroit-based, nationally focused social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Part of the Sphinx Organization, the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra is a unique all-Black and Latinx orchestra, composed of top professionals from around the country. UMS is honored to present the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, January 29, 2023, before the ensemble heads to The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on its first-ever U.S. tour.

The tour combines the artistic forces of the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and EXIGENCE Vocal Ensemble, and celebrates centuries of Black excellence in music — from powerful spirituals to exciting new music written by some of today’s most sought-after composers. And, several artists and works featured in the program have deep connections to the University of Michigan:


Aundi Marie Moore

Aundi Marie MooreSoprano Aundi Marie Moore completed her Master of Music Degree at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. She quickly established herself as an exceptional talent with her recent appearance as Strawberry Woman in the Metropolitan Opera’s 2021/22 season revival of Porgy and Bess. She will make her UMS debut as a soloist on the program, singing the spiritual “Fix Me, Jesus.”


Dr. Eugene Rogers

Eugene RogersA two-time Michigan Emmy Award winner, a 2017 Sphinx Medal of Excellence recipient, and a 2015 GRAMMY® Award nominee, Eugene Rogers is recognized as a leading conductor and pedagogue throughout the United States and abroad. In addition to being the founding director of EXIGENCE, Dr. Rogers is the director of choirs and an associate professor of conducting at the University of Michigan.



Carlos Simon

Carlos SimonThe program will open with a work by Michigan alumnus and composer Carlos Simon. Simon wrote Motherboxx Connection originally as the first part of his four-movement Tales: A Folklore Symphony, commissioned by the Sphinx Organization for its 25th anniversary and by the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra. This piece is inspired by the heroic characters found in the work of creative duo Black Kirby, whose work references pop culture contributions of comic book artist Jack Kirby, in evolving conversation with Afrofuturism, struggles for social justice, and the politics and poetics of Hip Hop.

Read program notes on Motherboxx Connection from the Boston Symphony Orchestra.


Seven Last Words of the Unarmed

Seven African-American men — each killed by police or by authority figures — are the subject of a powerful multi-movement choral work by composer Joel Thompson titled Seven Last Words of the Unarmed. The piece premiered in 2015 by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club under the direction of Dr. Eugene Rogers. Filmed at Michigan, the video above mirrors the poignant finale of the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra’s tour program, pairing Seven Last Words with “Glory” from the motion picture Selma (arranged by Eugene Rogers).

View a full documentary of the work and educational materials at


Buy Tickets

Experience the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra with EXIGENCE, Sunday, January 29 at 2 pm in Hill Auditorium. Full Program Info & Tickets

Conductor Eugene Rogers joins composers Joel Thompson and Carlos Simon to give further insight into Seven Last Words of the Unarmed and Motherboxx Connection in a pre-concert talk, Hill Auditorium Lower Lobby at 1 pm.