School of Music, Theatre & Dance appoints Sphinx founder as new dean

By Allana Akhtar, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 19, 2015

At their monthly meeting Thursday, the University’s Board of Regents approved Aaron Dworkin, founder and president of the Detroit-based Sphinx Organization, as the new dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Dworkin will make history as the first Black dean of the school.



Photo courtesy of UM News Service.

Dworkin’s five-year term begins July 20.

"I am tremendously honored to join this community comprised of leaders committed to scholarship and artistic excellence,” Dworkin said. “As we progress into an age which redefines the definitions of artistic pursuits, I am eager to bring my experiences and skillsets to bear as we nurture and empower a diverse student body to embody the best of our society in this new era."

Dworkin was also appointed a tenured professor in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Widely regarded as one of the foremost violinists, he is also known as one of the foremost leaders of the performing arts in the world. During the course of his career, he has gained awards including the National Governors Association 2005 Distinguished Service to State Government Award, Harvard University’s Vosgerchian Teaching Award and BET’s History Makers in the Making Award. President Barack Obama selected Dworkin as his first presidential appointment to the National Council on the Arts. He is also a MacArthur Fellow and a member of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London.

Recognizing the lack of minorities in the field of classical music, Dworkin created the Sphinx Organization to help reflect the diversity of orchestras in the nation. The Detroit-based organization is a national nonprofit that provides K-12 performing arts education and mentorship opportunities for minorities and students in underserved communities. It currently reaches 20,000 young musicians and supports numerous programs to help promote performing arts.

He earned Bachelors of Music and Masters of Music in Violin Performance degrees from the University.

In a written statement, Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R) called Dworkin an “exciting out-of-the-box appointment,” noting his insistence on “breaking new ground” would serve the school well.

University Provost Martha Pollack wrote in a statement that Dworkin would lead the school with integrity, energy and enthusiasm.

"His lifelong commitment to excellence in arts education is widely recognized in the U.S. and abroad," Pollack wrote. "Aaron brings exceptional experience with organizational governance and a style that is collaborative, inclusive and pragmatic.”

Dworkin was Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointment to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

"Aaron has an impressive history of leadership experience and is respected by many in the arts community of not only Michigan but also the nation. His commitment to culture, diversity and learning will be a great benefit to the University of Michigan and I am confident students will accomplish great things under his direction," Snyder wrote in a statement.

Dworkin will succeed Christopher Kendall, who has held the deanship since 2005. The University limits deans to 10 years of service.

During his tenure, Kendall secured funding and helped design the expansion of the Earl V. Moore Building, re-instituted major ensemble and international touring and campaigned for extensive scholarship funding for SMTD students. He will continue as a professor at the University in the Department of Conducting.