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August 6, 2012

A note from Ken: 50 Years ago on the White House Lawn…

By Ken Fischer

1. Close up of President Kennedy welcoming Interlochen founder and conductor Joseph E. Maddy, the Interlochen orchestra and dancers to the White House, 08-06-1962. 2. Interlochen dancers at the White House. This photo appeared on the front page of The New York Times on August 7, 1962.

Dear UMS Lobby Readers,

50 years ago today I was one of 117 lucky Interlochen Arts Camp orchestra members (French horn) and dancers who performed on the White House Lawn for President Kennedy and an audience of young people. Our hosts were the children of Kennedy Cabinet members. Our conductor was Interlochen founder and president, Dr. Joseph E. Maddy, and the program represented works by composers from many nations.

1. Interlochen dancers at the White House, 08-06-1962 performing Johann Strauss’s “Emperor’s Waltz.” 2. Interlochen campers having lunch on floor of East Room of White House with the children of Kennedy cabinet members. We picked up a plate of spaghetti in the State Dining Room and walked to the East Room, 08-06-1962.

Before the concert, President Kennedy gave a 5-minute speech on the importance of the arts in America and delivered it without any notes. I’ve attached the speech to this message. After the concert he greeted us in the Rose Garden and invited us to enjoy a spaghetti lunch sitting on the parquet floor of the East Room. My lunch companions were Kathy McNamara, daughter of the Secretary of Defense, and Peggy Rusk, daughter of the Secretary of State. An unforgettable experience!

Kennedy’s speech is really terrific. Take five minutes to listen to it.

President Kennedy speaking at the White House, 08-06-1962




Ken Fischer is the President of the University Musical Society (UMS) of the University of Michigan (U-M). Under Ken’s leadership UMS has expanded and diversified its programming and audiences; deepened its engagement with the U-M and southeast Michigan communities; created effective partnerships with corporations, arts organizations, educational institutions, and community organizations; and received significant grants from the leading arts foundations. Ken has contributed to the presenting field as speaker, workshop leader, writer, consultant, panelist, and U.S. State Department cultural ambassador to Brazil, China, Lithuania, and Mexico. He chairs the board of National Arts Strategies and the national advisory board of the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project. He serves on the boards of the Sphinx Organization, International Society for the Performing Arts, Cultural Alliance of Southeast Michigan, and Ann Arbor SPARK. Ken received ISPA's Patrick Hayes Award in 2003 and APAP's Fan Taylor Award in 2011 for his career achievements and the Mariam Noland Award for Nonprofit Leadership from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan in 2012. Ken has been recognized by The Links, Inc., Ann Arbor Public Schools Foundation, Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau, Michigan Taiwanese American Association, and Performance Network for his contributions to the Ann Arbor community. Ken has degrees from The College of Wooster and U-M and is a graduate of Plymouth (MI) High School’s Class of 1962. Ken’s home was Plymouth, Michigan, between 1950-67 where he grew up with his three siblings Jerry, Norman, and Martha, and with his parents Beth and Jerry Fischer. Ken’s wife is flutist Penny Peterson Fischer whom he met at Interlochen as a teen in 1961. Their son Matt is Senior Director of the App Store at Apple and lives with his wife Renee and sons Alex and Reid in the San Francisco Bay area. Ken's personal interests include mentoring U-M students and emerging arts leaders, Interlochen, Detroit Tigers, skiing, photography, and the efforts of Zeitouna to find effective ways to resolve conflict.
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