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 member of President Biden’s Arts Policy Committee, Aaron P. Dworkin is the former dean and current professor of Arts Leadership & Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, which is ranked among the top-performing arts schools in the nation. Dworkin is a successful social entrepreneur having founded the globally-recognized Sphinx Organization, the leading arts organization with the mission of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. He also serves as host of the nationally-broadcast Arts Engines show with a viewership of over 100,000. As a best-selling writer and poetjournalist, Dworkin has authored The Entrepreneurial Artist: Lessons from Highly Successful Creatives along with four other books including his memoir, Uncommon Rhythm: A Black, White, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witness, Irish Catholic Adoptee’s Journey to Leadership, and poetry collection, They Said I Wasn’t Really Black. Dworkin is a prominent spoken-word artist having toured nationally with his American Rhapsody, which premiered with the Minnesota Orchestra.  He has two recording albums and collaborated with a breadth of artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Damien Sneed, Anna Deveare Smith, Damian Woetzel, Lil Buck, and others. His Emmy award-winning film An American Prophecy was honored by numerous festivals, while his visual digital art project, Fractured History, has exhibited to rave reviews.

Dworkin has been featured in People Magazine, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Washington Post, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Emerge and Jet Magazines, and on the Today Show, CNN and NPR and was named one of Newsweek’s “15 People Who Make America Great.” He is the recipient of honors including the National Governors Association Distinguished Service to State Government Award, BET’s History Makers in the Making Award, and Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Lifetime Achievement Award and has been named Detroit News’s Michiganian of the Year and the National Black MBA’s Entrepreneur of The Year.

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 universities and global arts, creativity, and technology conferences. He has served on the board of directors or advisory boards for numerous influential arts organizations including the National Council on the Arts, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Knight Foundation, National Association of Performing Arts Professionals, Avery Fisher Artist Program, Independent Sector, League of American Orchestras, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, Michigan Theater, and Chamber Music America. Having raised over $50 million for philanthropic causes, Dworkin personifies creative leadership, entrepreneurship, and community service with an unwavering passion for the arts, diversity, and their role in society.

Dworkin has a myriad of life interests including innovation, creativity, human pair bonding and is passionate about social impact having founded a homeless organization and literary magazine. He is an avid kayaker, poker aficionado, and boater, having captained multiple crossings of the Gulfstream. He is an explorer of the culinary arts and a consummate movie enthusiast watching over 100 films every year. 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. They reside in Michigan with their two Savannah cats, Mocha and Pekoe, and English Cream Retriever, Rondo.

Bio last updated June 2020


BM (violin), University of Michigan
MM (violin), University of Michigan

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