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July 26, 2021

CIM Alumna Michelle Cann Awarded Sphinx Organization’s Highest Honor


Alumna Michelle Cann

Cleveland Institute of Music alumna Michelle Cann (BM ’09, MM ’10, Schenly, D. Shapiro) has received the 2022 Sphinx Organization Medal of Excellence, the highest honor bestowed by the Detroit-based social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Cann holds the inaugural Eleanor Sokoloff Chair in Piano Studies at the Curtis Institute of Music.

This is the second consecutive year that Sphinx has recognized a CIM graduate; oboist Titus Underwood (BM ’08, Mack, Rosenwein, Rathbun) was awarded this honor in 2021.

Along with a $50,000 cash prize, Sphinx annually awards the Medals of Excellence to three extraordinary classical musicians of color who early in their career demonstrate artistic excellence, outstanding work ethic, a spirit of determination and an ongoing commitment to leadership and their communities.

A champion of the music of Florence Price, Cann performed the New York City premiere of the composer’s Concerto in One Movement with The Dream Unfinished orchestra in July 2016 and the Philadelphia premiere with The Philadelphia Orchestra in February 2021, which The Philadelphia Inquirer called “exquisite.” She has also performed Price’s works for solo piano and chamber ensembles in concerts presented by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music Society of Detroit and the New World Symphony, among others – including The Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom in July.

“We are incredibly proud of Michelle. As one of CIM’s celebrated alumni, she exemplifies the standard of excellence for which our graduates are recognized, and this honor is well deserved,” said CIM President & CEO Paul W. Hogle. “Michelle’s commitment to expanding the classical music canon to include exceptional composers and works that have long been overlooked is a testament to the impact that one person can have on the future of classical music.”

“I’m extremely honored to receive the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, and to become part of this esteemed family of change-makers,” Cann said. “I’ve always admired Sphinx’s efforts to change the face of classical music, and I’m committed to furthering this mission especially for young pianists of color. With this award, I hope to inspire and motivate new generations of musicians by celebrating and advancing works by great Black composers.”

Cann made her orchestral debut at age 14 and has since performed as a soloist with numerous ensembles including The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

Cann regularly appears in solo and chamber recitals throughout the US, China, and South Korea. Notable engagements include performances at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (Beijing), John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles) and the Barbican (London).

An award winner at top international competitions, in 2019 she served as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s MAC (Multicultural Awareness Council) Music Innovator, a music residency that highlights leading African American classical musicians.