SMTD’s Giving Blueday Gets a $12K Jumpstart From Aaron and Afa Dworkin

On November 29, 2016, the University of Michigan will hold its third annual Giving Blueday, a 24-hour day of giving, scheduled on Giving Tuesday-a global day of giving following Thanksgiving weekend.

For the second year in a row, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) is focusing its Giving Blueday efforts on raising funds for EXCEL: Excellence in Entrepreneurship, Career Empowerment & Leadership. The new program, launched last fall, prepares SMTD students for impactful and sustainable careers in the performing arts.

Last year, enthusiastic alumni, parents, and SMTD friends generously donated $12,000 to support EXCEL on Giving Blueday 2015. This year, SMTD hopes to double that success beginning with a $12,000 gift from SMTD Dean Aaron Dworkin and his wife, Afa Dworkin (BM ’97, MM ’99, violin), president and artistic director of the Sphinx Organization. The gift was made through their Dworkin Foundation, which is dedicated to making a positive difference in society.

“Afa and I are thrilled to initiate the SMTD campaign for Giving Blueday, which we hope will inspire others to make a donation,” said Dean Dworkin. “The EXCEL program is revolutionizing the way our students are preparing for their careers and providing unprecedented entrepreneurial support for student performing arts and scholarly projects. With these projects, students are already making an impact on the community through their art, and it is clear that they will be the next movers and shakers in the field.”

In its first year, EXCEL awarded $40,000 in direct student support for entrepreneurial projects distributed amongst 12 teams of “EXCELerator Fellows,” and in 2016 SMTD hopes to increase that amount to $100,000. More than 200 students enrolled in credit-bearing arts entrepreneurship courses, which are integrated with the Performing Arts Management Minor and the cross-campus Entrepreneurship Minor. More than 500 students engaged in workshops and 200 in individual career advising appointments, and many renowned entrepreneurial artists have participated in the program’s “EXCELcasts,” and in seminars and Q&A’s, offering insight and advice on how to forge successful performing arts careers.

The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine just released their “2017 Best Colleges for Entrepreneurs” report, ranking the University of Michigan as the #3 undergraduate program in the nation. EXCEL courses, grants, quality of instructors, student projects, and participation all contributed to U-M’s jump from its #7 standing in 2016 to #3 this year.

Giving Blueday officially runs from 12:01 am to 11:59 pm on Tuesday, November 29. To make a donation, please visit