Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Detroit News: Black History: Dworkin turbo-charges University of Michigan arts school

The Detroit News

Michael H. Hodges, Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

February 9, 2016

Aaron Dworkin is a man in a hurry.

Deans at the University of Michigan are limited to a maximum of 10 years, explains the new dean of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance.

“You get two five-year terms, so I don’t believe I have the luxury of time,” says Dworkin, who also was President Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts. “I feel a real sense of urgency.”

Small surprise that he hit the ground running. Consider what the 2005 MacArthur “genius grant” winner checked off in just his first seven months:
The 45-year-old founder of Detroit’s famed Sphinx Organization created a new Department of Chamber Music, launched EXCEL, a school-wide program to burnish students’ entrepreneurial skills, established a new Director of Inclusion to boost minority enrollment, and ramped up involvement with the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

And in perhaps his most startling initiative, Dworkin announced a new international chamber-music competition, the M-Prize, that will be held on campus every May with a cash prize of $100,000.

“In his first two weeks on the job,” says an amused Professor Stephen Shipps, who heads the school’s Department of Strings and taught Dworkin when he was an undergraduate and graduate student, “Aaron raised money for this huge new chamber competition — the most lucrative in the world.”


Shipps sees the same qualities he spotted back then. “I never had a student work harder,” he says.

Funding to support M-Prize, says Dworkin, is all “new money,” contributed by the Provost’s office and an anonymous donor. “No current school resources were used,” he adds.

Students appear to be picking up on the new energy emanating from the dean’s office.

“The vibe seems good,” says Katie Stephen, a first-year master’s candidate in trumpet. “He seems like a really down-to-earth guy.”

Making no small plans, Dworkin’s ambition is to ensure that the School of Music, Theatre and Dance is both the nation’s premier performing-arts training ground and, in one of his favorite terms, the most “relevant.”
He wants to boost minority enrollment, and says he hopes his presence will help.
“I’m only the second African-American dean among the top 10 performing arts schools in the U.S.,” he says. The first, he adds, was Toni-Marie Montgomery at Northwestern University, “who’s just fabulous.”

He envisions a school that works overtime to equip students with the creativity and personal resourcefulness they’ll need to thrive in a fast-changing jobs environment.

Comment by email:
Thanks so much Bill... Hope all is well!  Aaron  [Aaron P. Dworkin]

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