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by Associate Professor Nicholas DiEugenio

Melissa White
Melissa White (Photo by Kevin Michael Murphy)

The Sphinx Organization, founded in 1997 by Aaron Dworkin, is a social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Violinists Elena Urioste and Melissa White, both first-place laureates of the Sphinx Competition, are living examples of artists who are transforming the lives of others through their music and their visionary projects, such as INTERMISSION. Co-founded by Melissa and Elena in 2017, INTERMISSION is a program that unites body, mind, breath, and music-making through yoga and meditation. Offering retreats for professionals, sessions for students, and an app for all, INTERMISSION seeks to reach musicians of various stages, levels, and life experiences.

Melissa White and Elena Urioste are both world-class concert violinists. Melissa has received critical acclaim for solo performances with some of America’s leading ensembles, including the Cleveland Orchestra; the Boston Pops; and the Atlanta, Baltimore, Colorado, Detroit and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras. As a founding member of the Grammy Award-winning Harlem Quartet, she has appeared in many of the country’s most prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall, the White House for former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and the Kennedy Center; and internationally in Europe, Africa, Japan, and the U.K., where the ensemble is currently Quartet-in-Residence at the Royal College of Music in London. Melissa has enjoyed practicing various styles of yoga for over a decade and completed her 200-hr RYT in both Vinyasa and Ashtanga at Sampoorna Yoga School in Goa, India.

Elena Urioste
Elena Urioste (Photo by Daniel Cavavos)

Elena, a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist (2012-14), has given acclaimed performances with major orchestras internationally including the Philadelphia, Cleveland and Minnesota Orchestras; LA and New York Philharmonics; Boston Pops; the Chicago, National, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras; the London Philharmonic, Hallé, Philharmonia, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Malaysia Philharmonic, and Chineke! Orchestras; and the BBC Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, and BBC NOW, among others. She has performed regularly as a featured soloist in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium and given recitals in such distinguished venues as the Wigmore Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Kennedy Center, Konzerthaus Berlin, Sage Gateshead, Bayerischer Rundfunk Munich, and the Mondavi Center. She has recorded albums for Decca, BIS Records, and Orchid Classics, and runs her own annual chamber music festival on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Elena is a 200-hr RYT Kripalu yoga teacher with over a decade of experience practicing various styles of yoga including Bikram, Fierce Grace, alignment-based vinyasa, and more.

I was extremely fortunate to attend the ENCORE School for Strings in the mid 2000’s along with Melissa and Elena, where their respective performances inspired and motivated me! Though Elena and Melissa were also classmates at the Curtis Institute of Music and, later, roommates living as young artists in New York, they each developed a separate appreciation of yoga and its indispensable value to their musical endeavors. Over a dinner conversation in 2009, they reflected on how helpful yoga had been, and also that nobody had ever formally run a music and yoga program before, and the idea for INTERMISSION was born!

You can listen to Melissa and Elena perform and speak about INTERMISSION here (also embedded below) and follow this link to a full-length interview in this year’s debut episode of the Mind Over Finger podcast.

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