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March 9, 2023

UMS Announces Programming Leadership Transition

Michael Kondziolka and Mark Jacobson

Michael Kondziolka and Mark Jacobson

Michael Kondziolka, UMS’s Vice President of Programming & Production, has announced that he will retire at the conclusion of the 2022-23 season after 36 years with the organization. Matthew VanBesien, UMS President, has appointed Senior Programming Manager Mark Jacobson as Vice President, Programming & Production on a permanent basis.

“Michael Kondziolka has had a tremendous impact on UMS, our community, and the performing arts field over the past three and a half decades,” said UMS Board Chair Rachel Bendit. “Under his artistic leadership and curatorial collaboration with former President Ken Fischer, the organization expanded its programmatic portfolio to include a major commitment to dance and theater, as well as jazz and diverse non-Western performance traditions. We are immeasurably grateful for Michael’s decades-long commitment to UMS. All of us who attend UMS events have him to thank for pushing UMS and our audiences to be curious and for introducing us to artists and art forms across an expansive variety of genres.”

“Michael’s tenure and contributions here at UMS are simply extraordinary and have positioned UMS to be the cultural leader it is today,” added UMS President Matthew VanBesien. “He’s contributed so much over his 36 years, and done so with strong artistic conviction, fresh and creative thinking, and true passion for the arts and the artists we present. He will truly be missed.”

“Mark Jacobson has been an excellent and inspiring colleague at UMS for many years, and his promotion to Vice President of Programming & Production reaffirms UMS’s commitment to a vibrant and wide-ranging program,” said VanBesien. “It has been a great joy to work more closely with Mark during this transitional year, and he has demonstrated that he will move UMS’s programming portfolio forward, provide leadership for major projects and new producing opportunities, and work with our staff, board, and guest artists in exciting new ways. As someone who already has a strong historical track record within UMS, Mark’s appointment allows us to build on all that we have already accomplished through Michael’s tenure, and work in even more open and collaborative ways as we look towards our 150th season in 2029.”

Kondziolka began at UMS in 1987 as an intern in the development department while working on a master’s degree in clarinet at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theater & Dance. He spent a year in marketing and production before creating and building the departmental structure for artistic planning and production for UMS in 1992. His deep knowledge of classical music combined with his insatiable curiosity for new art forms and ideas led to UMS’s reputation as one of the country’s leading performing arts presenters, recognized through awards like the National Medal of Arts and through international partnerships with major arts organizations worldwide. He was honored by the nation of France in 2016 when he was made a Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture.

In 1998, Kondziolka hired Mark Jacobson to assist with the planning, execution, and work of the programming and production departments. Mark’s keen interest and experience in jazz allowed him to take over that part of the programming portfolio, and over the past two decades he has taken on more responsibilities, now serving as UMS’s Senior Programming Manager. In this role, he served as lead producer on the filmed UMS production of James Anthony Tyler’s Some Old Black Man, which was broadcast at no charge to over 20,000 households worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. He was also the chief architect this past fall of a weeklong UMS/U-M residency featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, culminating in the Michigan premiere of Marsalis’s All Rise, composed for symphony orchestra, jazz orchestra, and chorus, and a halftime show featuring JLCO with Wynton Marsalis in collaboration with the Michigan Marching Band, performed for 115,000 fans at Michigan Stadium and aired on national TV.

Wendell Pierce, noted actor, producer, and performer in Some Old Black Man, noted, “I worked closely with Mark Jacobson and the UMS team during the depths of the pandemic as we safely produced a newly filmed theater production. His leadership and collaboration with our cast and creative team was first rate. UMS will greatly benefit from Mark in this new role as Vice President, as he has such a strong commitment to the fullest spectrum of programming, and to the artists who create it.”

Matthew VanBesien added, “I also want to recognize the exceptional work of UMS Programming Manager Mary Roeder, Vice President of Learning & Engagement Cayenne Harris, Director of Production Ryan Graves, Vice President of Marketing and Communications Sara Billmann, the entire programming, production, and learning and engagement teams, and our broader UMS staff for their excellent work, alongside Michael Kondziolka, in developing the program for the 23/24 season, which will be announced next month. We’ve also greatly valued the UMS board programming committee, whose co-chairs in Brian Willen and Versell Smith have provided counsel and guidance to the team for the past several years.”

“I’m honored to continue the work of UMS and its mission of offering a broad palette of distinctive and diverse performing arts experiences to the University’s students, faculty, and staff,” says Jacobson, “while also strengthening our creative and community connections throughout southeastern Michigan. UMS audiences have always challenged the organization to innovate and I look forward to engaging our patrons in new and exciting ways.”


Read the full press release (PDF)