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U-M selects Sphinx’s founder as new dean of School of Music, Theatre & Dance


Aaron Dworkin, the founder and president of the renowned Sphinx Organization who is recognized internationally for his leadership and advocacy of diversity in the performing arts, will serve as dean of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) beginning July 20, 2015.  

Dworkin’s appointment for a five-year term was approved on March 19 by the Board of Regents. He was also appointed as the Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music and tenured professor of strings.

Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Martha E. Pollack referred to Dworkin as a “visionary leader and award-winning teacher with a passion for transforming young lives through art.”

“His lifelong commitment to excellence in arts education is widely recognized in the United States and abroad,” Pollack said. “I look forward to welcoming alumnus Aaron Dworkin back to campus next summer and working together with the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance as they prepare and inspire the next generation of performing artists.”

An accomplished violinist who holds both bachelor of music and master of music degrees in violin performance from U-M, Dworkin founded the Sphinx Organization in 1996. It is now a leading national non-profit, based in Detroit, which was established to increase diversity in the arts through a variety of programs that address four main areas:  education and access, artist development, performing artists, and arts leadership.

A MacArthur Fellow, President Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts, Governor Rick Snyder’s appointee to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and member of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, Dworkin is recognized as one of the foremost international leaders committed to arts education and advocacy.​

Dworkin will succeed Christopher Kendall, who steps down as dean in July after serving two consecutive five-year terms, the current U-M limit.

“The School of Music, Theatre & Dance will be in excellent hands with Aaron Dworkin as dean,” said Kendall. “A major focus during my tenure has been the development of programs and curriculum to help our students become artist-citizens who see in their art the capacity to contribute to their communities and to the human condition. Aaron, a U-M alum, is a shining example of this kind of 21st century artist. Through his remarkable achievements, he has proven himself a singular leader in the performing arts, with a deep commitment to fostering the next generation of leaders in the field. I wish him all the very best.”

The search for a new dean was announced last spring with the formation of a Search Advisory Committee. Jason Corey, chair and associate professor of SMTD’s Department of Performing Arts Technology, was appointed chair of the committee.

"Aaron Dworkin is a forward-looking, inspiring, and visionary leader who understands arts education for the 21st century,” said Corey. “His career trajectory displays distinguished cultural entrepreneurship, an outstanding track record of fundraising, a deep commitment to community engagement through arts education, and extraordinary leadership around issues of diversity and inclusiveness in the arts. The members of the dean search advisory committee are all tremendously enthusiastic about the possibilities that his leadership will bring to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance."

Dworkin will be the first African-American dean of the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, which is widely recognized as one of the preeminent performing arts schools in the nation. Distinguished by its synergy of scholarship, artistry, and comprehensive education in all disciplines of performance as well as in research and pedagogy, SMTD is known for interdisciplinary training that is unique to a highly ranked research university.

"I am tremendously honored to be joining a community comprised of leaders committed to scholarship and artistic excellence,” Dworkin said. “As we progress into an age that redefines artistic pursuits, I am eager to bring my experience and skill sets to bear as we nurture and empower a diverse student body."

Board of Regents Chair Katherine E. White said that Dworkin’s “drive to change attitudes about diversity in the arts with education and access make him an excellent fit at the university.”

Regent Andrea Fischer Newman said, “This is an exciting out-of-the-box appointment of a multi-talented, extremely successful entrepreneur. Aaron's previous accolades and support, including a MacArthur Genius grant, and his insistence on breaking new ground and excelling at everything he does, bodes well for the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.”


past news

March 2017

Alumnus Michael-Thomas Foumai, MM '11, DMA '14, was named one of the 2017 Morton Gould Young Composer Award recipients by ASCAP.   03/30/2017

Dean Dworkin's statement on proposed elimination of NEA and NEH 03/16/2017

June 2016
January 2016
October 2013

Professor Bright Sheng is profiled in the Detroit News, in anticipation of the debut of his violin concerto, "Let Fly," to be performed by Gil Shaham with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Oct 4-6, 2013, conducted by Leonard Slatkin.    10/02/2013

September 2013

DMA composition student Patrick Harlin has been named the first-ever winner of the Hermitage Prize, awarded by the Aspen Music Festival and the Hermitage Artist Retreat.    09/04/2013

November 2011
November 2009
May 2009
Current News
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