Faculty & Staff Profiles

Aaron Dworkin

Professor of Arts Leadership & Entrepreneurship

Named a 2005 MacArthur Fellow, President Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts, and Governor Snyder’s appointment to the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs, Aaron P. Dworkin previously served as dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD), which is ranked among the top performing arts schools in the nation. He is currently a tenured full professor of arts leadership and entrepreneurship at SMTD as well as serving as a professor of entrepreneurial studies at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. In addition, he is the founder of, which serves as the global marketplace for the arts, as well as The Sphinx Organization, the leading national arts organization with the mission of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Dworkin is the producer and host of AaronAsk, a weekly online mentoring show on creativity and leadership.

A multi-media performing artist, author, social entrepreneur, artist-citizen, and educator, he continually receives extensive national recognition for his leadership and service to communities. Dworkin also founded the Dworkin Foundation where he serves as chairman of the board. As a successful writer, he has authored a science-fiction novel, Ethos: Rise of Malcolm recently published by MorganJames; his memoir titled Uncommon Rhythm: A Black, White, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witness, Irish Catholic Adoptee’s Journey to Leadership released through Aquarius Press; a poetry collection, They Said I Wasn’t Really Black; and a children’s book The 1st Adventure of Chilli Pepperz. Dworkin’s writings have been featured in SymphonyMagazine,, Andante, and other websites and publications. He also founded and served as publisher and editor-in-chief of The Bard, a literary magazine. A lifelong musician, Dworkin is a visual and spoken-word performing artist represented by Jensen Artists and has collaborated with a breadth of artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Damien Sneed, Anna Deveare Smith, Damian Woetzel, Lil Buck, and others. He recorded and produced two CDs, titled Ebony Rhythm and Bar-Talk, in addition to writing, producing, and directing the independent film Deliberation.

Dworkin has been featured in People Magazine, on NBC’s Today Show and Nightly News, CNN, NPR’s The Story, and Performance Today. He has been the subject of articles in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, Washington Post, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Emerge, and Jet Magazine, and many other media outlets, and was named one of Newsweek’s “15 People Who Make America Great.” He is the recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society Honorary Membership, Harvard University’s Vosgerchian Teaching Award, National Governors Association’s 2005 Distinguished Service to State Government Award, Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award, Detroit News’s 2003 Michiganian of the Year Award, Crain’s 40 Under 40 and Who’s Who Awards, BET’s History Makers in the Making Award, AT&T Excellence in Education Award, and National Black MBA’s Entrepreneur of The Year.

Dworkin has extensive artistic leadership having served as a juror for some of the most prestigious international competitions including the Menuhin Competition, London Music Masters Competition, Stulberg International Violin Competition, and the Sphinx Competition. A sought-after global thought leader and a passionate advocate for excellence in arts education, entrepreneurship and leadership, as well as inclusion in the performing arts, Dworkin is a frequent keynote speaker and lecturer at numerous national conferences including the Aspen Ideas Conference, Independent Sector, Americans for the Arts, Dance USA National Conference, The League of American Orchestras, National Association for Schools of Music, Society for Music Teacher Education, National Guild for Community Schools of the Arts, National Association of Music Merchants, Chautauqua Institution, National Suzuki Association, American String Teachers Association, Ithaca College, and the National Association for Negro Musicians. He served as commencement speaker at the Curtis Institute of Music, University of Michigan, Longy Conservatory and twice for Bowling Green State University. In May of 2013, the renowned Curtis Institute of Music awarded Honorary Doctorates to Aaron and Sir Simon Rattle, longtime maestro of the Berlin Philharmonic. He also holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in violin performance from the University of Michigan.

Dworkin personifies arts leadership, entrepreneurship and community commitment with an unwavering passion for the arts, diversity, and their role in society. As dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, he led a world-class faculty of 180 and a staff of 100 while administering a budget over $60 million, an endowment in excess of $140 million, and a capital campaign that raised over $90 million. As founder of the Sphinx Organization, Dworkin created an international organization with a staff and faculty of over 50 and a budget of $5 million that awards more than $1 million in prizes and scholarships annually. The organization serves as the leading advocate for young people and diversity in the arts worldwide.

Dworkin serves regularly as a board or advisory member for numerous influential arts organizations including the National Council on the Arts, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Sistema Global, National Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the Avery Fisher Artist Program, Independent Sector’s Advisory Group, League of American Orchestras, National Society for the Gifted and Talented, Creative Many Michigan, the Knight Foundation, ASTA Alternative Strings Awards, Rachel Elizabeth Barton Foundation, Editorial Board of Downtown New York Magazine, and Chamber Music America. As the co-chair of the Arts and Cultural Education Task Force for the State of Michigan, Dworkin designed the required arts curriculum for Michigan schools.

Dworkin has strong interests in politics, innovation, creativity, human pair bonding, and issues of economic and social justice. In addition to various genres of music and disciplines of the performing arts, he enjoys travel, movies, and the culinary arts. He is married to Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, a prominent international arts leader who serves as president and artistic director of the Sphinx Organization, and has two awesome sons, Noah Still and Amani Jaise.

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