A Dean Departs
Aaron Dworkin cuts short his tenure at SMTD
From the May, 2017 issue
"Can you believe this?" a professor in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance emailed another last month. Seconds earlier, they'd both received a message from SMTD dean Aaron Dworkin announcing he was resigning halfway through his five-year term.
Dworkin's message cited a need "to focus more on my family." In a brief telephone interview, he refers to "unexpected circumstances" and says he felt "absolutely no pressure" to step down.
Dworkin was an unconventional hire. Neither an academic nor a professional performer, the U-M- trained violinist came from Sphinx, the nonprofit he and his first wife founded to increase black and Latino involvement in classical music.
Recognizing the rarity of the orchestral positions to which music grads traditionally aspired, Dworkin launched an entrepreneurship program that encourages students to create their own performance opportunities. He also boosted the visibility of chamber music, making it a full-fledged department and sponsoring a competition with an unheard-of $100,000 top prize.
"He brought a lot of energy and a lot of ideas," says music prof Mark Clague, who worked closely with him on the entrepreneurship program. "I'm sorry to see him go."
Dworkin's relationship with the faculty "was hot and cold, particularly in the first year," says one prof. Many were put off at their first official meeting with the new dean, this person says, when Dworkin projected "a blown-up image of himself on the screen, and a PowerPoint presentation identifying his goals, his corporate ethics and the new mandate of our school's 'relevance.'"
Dworkin will remain on the faculty, teaching courses in "arts leadership" and "Creative Entrepreneurship." And he's continuing to record motivational videos for his own website, aaronask.com, described as "Weekly Mentoring for a Creative Life." But his chief fundraising goal--finding a donor to contribute a "naming gift" in the tens of millions of dollars--will now be left to his successor.
[Originally published in May, 2017.]
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