University of Michigan
News for Faculty and Staff

June 22, 2018

U-M selects Sphinx Organization’s founder as dean of SMTD

March 19, 2015

U-M selects Sphinx Organization’s founder as dean of SMTD

Aaron Dworkin, an accomplished violinist recognized internationally for his leadership and advocacy of diversity in the performing arts, will serve as dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

His appointment for a five-year term beginning July 20 was approved Thursday by the Board of Regents. He also was appointed the Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music and tenured professor of strings.

Aaron Dworkin

Martha E. Pollack, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, referred to Dworkin as a "visionary leader and award-winning teacher with a passion for transforming young lives through art."

"His lifelong commitment to excellence in arts education is widely recognized in the U.S. and abroad," Pollack said. "I look forward to welcoming alumnus Aaron Dworkin back to campus next summer and working together with the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance as they prepare and inspire the next generation of performing artists."

Dworkin is the founder and president of the Sphinx Organization, a leading national nonprofit based in Detroit that was established to increase diversity in the arts through a variety of programs that address four main areas: education and access, artist development, performing artists, arts leadership.

He has Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in violin performance from U-M.

A MacArthur Fellow, President Obama's first appointment to the National Council on the Arts, Gov. Rick Snyder's appointee to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and a member of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, Dworkin is recognized as one of the foremost international leaders committed to arts education and advocacy.​

Dworkin will be the first African-American dean of SMTD, which is widely recognized as one of the pre-eminent performing arts schools in the nation. Distinguished by its synergy of scholarship, artistry and comprehensive education in all disciplines of performance as well as in research and pedagogy, the school is known for interdisciplinary training offered at a highly ranked research university.

"I am tremendously honored to be joining a community comprised of leaders committed to scholarship and artistic excellence," Dworkin said. "As we progress into an age that redefines artistic pursuits, I am eager to bring my experience and skill sets to bear as we nurture and empower a diverse student body."

Board of Regents Chair Katherine E. White said Dworkin's "drive to change attitudes about diversity in the arts with education and access make him an excellent fit at the university."

Regent Andrea Fischer Newman said, "This is an exciting out-of-the-box appointment of a multitalented, extremely successful entrepreneur. Aaron's previous accolades and support, including a MacArthur Genius grant and his insistence on breaking new ground and excelling at everything he does, bodes well for the School of Music, Theatre & Dance."

The appointment follows the June 2014 announcement that Dean Christopher Kendall would step down this summer after a decade of service, the current university limit. Kendall will continue as a professor in the Department of Conducting.