Aaron Dworkin shares personal message about stepping down as dean

It is with intensely mixed emotions that I share with you my intent to step down from my position as dean at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, effective August 15, 2017.  It is necessary for me to have the opportunity to focus more on my family, and this step reflects a joint family decision on our part. I appreciate your understanding about this, and my need for privacy on this matter.

Interim Provost Paul N. Courant will recommend an interim dean in the months ahead, and he will be launching a national search for a new dean in the near future.

I deeply cherish our beloved school, respect our talented faculty and staff, and am passionate about the mission that is at the core of our work: transforming the lives of our engaged students, who represent the future of our field.

While I transition from carrying out that work in the role of dean, I will remain equally committed in my faculty role through the Creative Entrepreneurship and Arts Leadership courses that I will teach in the fall.  Additionally, I look forward to supporting the interim dean, as well as furthering the field of creative entrepreneurship and arts leadership for the broader university community.

I am honored to have been part of the tremendous evolution of our school over these past two years, which has been extraordinarily exciting, and has included so many successes on the part of so many students, faculty, and staff.  While I am unable to recognize all of their accomplishments in this context, I thought I would share just a few highlights:

  • Transformed arts entrepreneurship and leadership training through EXCEL (Excellence in Entrepreneurship, Career Empowerment & Leadership), with coursework, workshops, and student grants, providing the most direct support for student entrepreneurial projects of all performing arts school nationally; graduate student Melissa Coppola was featured on cover of debut issue of Innovate Blue’s Made at Michigan magazine
  • Created new Department of Chamber Music; hired internationally renowned chamber artist as chair
  • Created M-Prize, the largest chamber music competition in the world, with $100K grand prize (with string, wind, open divisions), drawing the eyes of the music world to SMTD and Ann Arbor
  • Doubled community engagement activities at SMTD and developed the Michigan Artist Citizen program out of the existing El Sistema SMTD initiative, through partnership with Ann Arbor Public Schools
  • Surpassed our overall $90 million Victors for Michigan campaign goal by over $4 million, 18 months ahead of schedule, making substantial progress in providing scholarship support for every student that needs it
  • Developed live streaming and professional audio recording capacity in school venues, and added video to our communications efforts, with a transformative effect on school messaging
  • Continued the excellence of musical theatre with appointment of new chair after 30-year legacy of Brent Wagner
  • Created chief inclusion officer role and evolved diversity with largest underrepresented student application and matriculation increase in history of school
  • Developed intersections for social justice and the arts, including SMTD student showcases at U-M events with Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Jesse Jackson, and in presentation of new works, including “7 Last Words of the Unarmed” performed by the Men’s Glee Club and featured in Michigan Media documentary aired on Detroit Public Television
  • Furthered national profile of the school, including direct dean presentations outlining SMTD vision and differentiation in the field at more than 30 regional and national institutions and conferences
  • Raised media profile for school (multiple articles/stories in NY Times, Detroit Free Press, BBC News, AP, NPR and many other media outlets) with thousands of media impressions, impacting student and faculty recruitment
  • Initiated Deans Liaisons program, providing students the opportunity to grow as well-rounded ambassadors, learning from the leadership team of SMTD
  • Center Stage Strings, a leading summer training programs for young string musicians, became part of MPulse summer programs
  • Developed partnerships with Detroit Public Television and Michigan Radio, and deepened collaborations with UMS and other partners
  • Hosted historic collaborations between Michigan Marching Band: first with members of the New York Philharmonic, and later with Departments of Dance and Musical Theatre, bringing audience of 100,000+ in the Big House to their feet
  • Launched theory boot camp, impacting student achievement
  • Restructured school administration empowering strong financial position of school and balanced budgets

These successes on the part of our students, faculty, and staff–along with so many others I am unable to include here–are components of an intentional strategy as SMTD strives to be the most relevant school of the performing arts in the world.  I am moved not only by the senior leadership team’s commitment towards these goals, but also that of the Provost and President of the university, as we continue on this trajectory for the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. I thank them sincerely for their support.

Again, I cannot express enough my deepest admiration to everyone I have worked with–for your talent, your expertise, your commitment and passion. And I am equally grateful to our truly remarkable students. All of you have inspired and motivated me at a time when the role of the arts in our society is so critically important, and the impact made by our faculty, staff, and students is profound.

From my time as a student (once-upon-a-time) to my role as dean, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance–which means the people who comprise our school–has transformed my life, as I know it has for so many of you. I look forward to continuing this work with you in my new capacity.


Best regards,

Aaron P. Dworkin
Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music
School of Music, Theatre & Dance
University of Michigan
Member, The National Council on the Arts