2017-18 Annual Report

In the 2017-18 season, you played an integral part in unforgettable moments at UMS.

Photo of Matthew Vanbesien

Thank you.

I’m delighted to share with you the 2017-18 Annual Report, with highlights from our 139th season that reflect both the wide array of performing artists we present and all the ways we connect artists and audiences off the stage.

My first season here at UMS has been remarkable, and I knew it would be. Artists who know UMS, from Wynton Marsalis to legendary conductor Sir Simon Rattle, have shared how much they appreciate the innovative ways UMS inspires and engages people of all ages — from our most seasoned subscribers to K-12 students who might be seeing a live performance for the first time.

Whether you attend a single performance or subscribe to the season, volunteer, sponsor a performance, and/or support our work with an annual or endowed gift — we appreciate your continued engagement and all that you make possible at UMS. The artists we present would agree, that what you have helped build here in Ann Arbor — and for Southeast Michigan — is simply extraordinary. Thank you.

Signature of Matthew Vanbesien, UMS President

You opened our 139th season at a favorite downtown locale with a New Orleans original.

Butler, Bernstein & the Hot 9, with the late New Orleans great Henry Butler (1948-2018) and brass man Steven Bernstein, brought the Big Easy to Downtown Home & Garden and Bill’s Beer Garden, delivering colorful new improvisations and great fun to an appreciative audience. We were particularly lucky to have enjoyed Henry Butler’s joyful dance across the keys in his last year of touring. The “last in a line of distinctive New Orleans pianists,” he passed away in early July.

Henry Butler, Steven Bernstein and the Hot 9 were great. Loved the venue... We're longtime Henry Butler fans, but this collaboration brought out new dimensions in his composing and playing. Thanks, UMS, for taking the chance.

Audience comment

You celebrated a diverse array of brilliant artistry.

In the 2017-18 season, artists from around the globe showcased their artistic brilliance and ingenuity. Signature performances like the New York Philharmonic’s residency provided remarkable moments that at times moved audiences to tears. And original presentations like John McLauglin & Jimmy Herring’s explosive jamming at the Michigan Theater (pictured above) delighted audiences with the unexpected.

Wonderful experience... Nine amazing musicians — including two of the world’s greatest guitarists... I think they really gelled at the UMS venue and appreciated the audience participation. They clearly played their hearts out! One for the ages.

You welcomed the New York Philharmonic for its second major UMS residency.

Three concerts celebrating the legacy of Leonard Bernstein brought sold-out audiences of nearly 9,000 to their feet, over 30% of whom were students. Friday night’s opening concert celebrated the music of Gustav Mahler, and a multi-media re-creation of the Young People’s Concerts that Bernstein made famous captivated audiences of all ages. The weekend’s final concert featured Leonard Slatkin conducting Bernstein’s own “Kaddish” symphony with Jeremy Irons as narrator, complete with a live radio broadcast from Hill Auditorium that reached over 10,000 people.

The performance of [Leonard Bernstein’s] Kaddish on Sunday was chilling, uplifting, remarkable — transcendental!... I had goosebumps... Once-in-a-lifetime experience... Unforgettable!

Audience comment

Master classes provided unique insights.

New York Philharmonic musicians shared their professional expertise and insights with U-M students in a range of master classes that were open to the public and drew a total attendance of 846. And 100 theater students had the life-changing experience of a private conversation with Jeremy Irons at the Arthur Miller Theatre.

The tuba master class was spectacular — amazing insight nicely delivered; huge range of knowledge. LOVED the opportunity to attend! Thank you.

Audience comment

Student vocalists had starring roles in a Bernstein classic.

Behind the Scenes with two U-M Musical Theatre students: Jamie Colburn and Jessica Gomes-Ng had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform with the New York Philharmonic as Tony and Maria in an excerpt from Bernstein’s West Side Story, part of Saturday’s mainstage Young People’s Concert. As part of their UMS experience, Jamie and Jessica traveled to New York City to work with the orchestra and conductor Leonard Slatkin.

Two Off the Grid musical experiences captivated a downtown crowd.

New York Philharmonic musicians teamed up with U-M music students in two Off the Grid pop-up music events that UMS hosted at two local eateries, Fred’s (pictured) and Avalon Café and Kitchen.

IT WAS AMAZING. Truly inspiring and a unique experience... I loved being able to have such an intimate experience with these incredible musicians... Absolutely adored the event; thank you!

Audience comment

And a host of community activities enthralled audiences of all ages.

A range of educational and community engagement activities designed around the mainstage concerts captivated audiences of all ages — including a musician meet-and-greet and a fun, interactive and educational event led by New York Philharmonic teaching artists before Saturday’s Young People’s Concert.

Words cannot express how wonderful that experience was for the youth! None of them had ever listened to classical music outside of your workshop, and they were very captivated that all of those instruments together produced such beautiful music. Thank you for the opportunity to introduce them to the New York Philharmonic.

You joined us at creative venues in Detroit —— at El Club, where Steve Lehman & Sélébéyone took the conversation between jazz and hip-hop to new heights,

This was such a phenomenal performance! Edgy jazz mixed with other cultures. A refreshing performance. El Club is a good venue for UMS.

Audience comment

and at the Schvitz, where Bubble Schmeisis took us on a playful journey.

Seven performances at a traditional bath house in Detroit brought adventurous audiences on a unique and entertaining journey, with a few brave audience members stepping up to demonstrate the Jewish bath house tradition of being “schmeissed.”

Loved it! An unforgettable one-man show, amazing story-telling, with lots of nuances and wonderful energy. The performance was fun from beginning to end. The [bath house] venue couldn't have been more perfect.

Audience comment

You embraced innovative choreography that pushed new boundaries in beauty.

Audiences were riveted by Nederlands Dans Theater’s incredibly inventive aesthetic, as dancers moved through elaborate sets in ways that mesmerized, moved, and dazzled.

The most stunning performance I have seen EVER at UMS!... The statement was powerful and poignant. I'm still thinking about it and remembering moments days later... I was captivated, amazed... moved! I’m so glad I took the chance and attended.

You ventured beyond your comfort zone in the inaugural No Safety Net theater series,

In the inaugural No Safety Net Series, four provocative theater presentations over three weeks explored critical and timely social issues. 46% of the audiences who attended were students — including those from 19 U-M classes, representing a wide range of academic disciplines that integrated the performances into their coursework.

I am so, so glad that No Safety Net is being presented now, while we are trying to stimulate conversations on campus about free speech... The performance pushed, provoked, and stimulated me in all the ways theater should. It was incredibly uncomfortable, but also inspiring in so many ways.

Lynette Clemetson, Charles R. Eisendrath Director of Wallace House

and you joined us for important conversations and reflection off the stage.

Thirty-three contextual educational events, designed around the mainstage theater presentations, drew a total attendance of 2,760 and fostered important conversations on racism, gender identity, terrorism/trauma, and addiction recovery and healing.

Thank you all so much for this amazing event — a preview and follow-up to the performance of Us/Them. We are all blown away. My students are still talking about the power of this experience, plus, they feel bonded.

Liz Goodenough, Faculty Fellow

You welcomed Misty Copeland back to Detroit,

UMS and Michigan Opera Theatre teamed up to bring American Ballet Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet to the Detroit Opera House. Five mainstage performances enthralled audiences of all ages. And over 500 youth from a diverse range of community organizations, including EMU’s Bright Futures after-school program and Motor City Youth Theatre, enjoyed the Saturday matinee on free or significantly discounted tickets.

My 16-year-old daughter and I attended last night's performance and both loved it... It was such a treat to see Misty Copeland dance... The trio of Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio just drew us in; their swagger, humor, friendship, and banter were infectious... The venue, costumes, and music were magical.

Audience comment

and gave young ballerinas the chance to dance with members from the corps de ballet.

Master classes and conversations with ABT’s Erica Lall, including a small dinner for U-M students of color, offered special inspiration for aspiring dancers and young ballerinas in Ann Arbor, Chelsea, and Detroit — especially in seeding future possibilities for students of color.

It's so inspiring to see a woman of color be successful and work with a top organization.

You revisited America’s most famous opera,

In an extensive artistic collaboration, UMS and U-M’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) co-produced and presented a test opera in concert of The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess. A full cast of professional opera stars and vocal students were joined by the University Symphony Orchestra, SMTD’s Chamber Choir, and the Willis Patterson Our Own Thing Chorale. A fully staged production of the U-M Gershwin Initiative’s new scholarly edition will premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 2019.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime performance, amazing and unforgettable on every level... The major soloists were astonishing in their power and beauty. And the chorus added immeasurably to the overall powerful effects.

Audience comment

and examined its controversial history.

A full complement of contextual conversations with the professional cast and scholars examined Porgy & Bess, what it means to perform this historical work and themes that are still relevant today, including racial bias, stereotypes, and cultural appropriation.

I had an unforgettable experience singing through Porgy and Bess in its entirety for the first time at UMS! To be onstage with an incredible group of artists who’ve sung this great piece many times, was truly inspiring. From day one the bond and connection we all had was like being at a family gathering!

Janai Brugger, professional soloist
Pictured with microphone at the Friday pre-performance symposium
The night before Saturday’s mainstage performance, a Kaleidoscope of student performances and interactive activities throughout Hill Auditorium’s lobby spaces engaged students and community members in creative exploration of cultural appropriation.

UMS hosting Kaleidoscope was such a great opportunity because it gave Shaunie and I the chance to work on material we would normally never be able to explore.

You sparked transformative learning off the stage.

Jillian Walker (left) — a playwright who spent time at UMS developing new work through a creative artist residency — visited with Girls Group at Peace Neighborhood Center to share her work and creative process, and helped high school students find their own voice and personal stories to share. Hundreds of UMS education and community engagement activities connected artists, students, and community members in creative learning that ignited new ways of thinking about the world.

The fact that Jillian came and visited with the girls in person was so meaningful and powerful. The fact that she actually looks like them, that she went to college, and that she’s studying and working in New York was really amazing for them to see... Jillian represented and shared all that we teach at Girls Group.

You participated in unique community events.

Community members had the opportunity to visit with South African jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim at a lunch at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, one of a wide range of unique events that connected community members across Southeast Michigan with performing artists from around the world in uncommon and engaging experiences. Pictured: Abdullah Ibrahim (left) with Jazz musician James Carter (right).

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host an intimate conversation with Abdullah Ibrahim for Detroit-area scholars, activists, and leading jazz artists, including Marian Hayden and James Carter. Abdullah is a legendary musician with an immense spiritual presence, which was quite evident as he reflected on his experiences resisting apartheid in South Africa. Our collaborative partnership with UMS is instrumental in building a cultural bridge between Ann Arbor and Detroit.

You expanded access to ensure that all students could experience the magic of UMS — through generous student ticket discounts,

Thanks to generous support from our donors, UMS is able to offer all college students — not just U-M students — steep ticket discounts to all UMS performances. And through Bert’s Tickets, a special program established by a generous U-M alum, all first- and second-year U-M undergraduate students are invited to attend a UMS performance of their choice on us.

These performances have opened up a world for me. I grew up in a poor household, so I did not have the luxury to attend many cultural performances. The fact that we, as students, get discounted, often free, tickets to performances has allowed me to explore some parts of my identity.

U-M Student

and ticket and transportation grants for underserved K-12 schools.

Through the University of Michigan Credit Union Arts Adventure Program, UMS extended 21 grants to make it possible for 1,354 K-12 students to attend UMS School Day Performances — 95% of whom were from Title I schools.

You connected students on campus with world-renowned artists,

Through master classes, conversations, and class visits, U-M students across a wide range of disciplines — from the humanities and social sciences to engineering and dentistry — connected with visiting artists from around the world in transformative conversations, including Egyptian political satirist Bassem Youssef (pictured above).

UMS unsettles us in the best way and shakes up our narratives and assumptions, whether you are a 21st Century Artist intern or a sophomore in mechanical engineering... [their] integrative and immersive approach to presenting the arts opens the door for students to change the way they view the world, and their own potential, at a pivotal point in their education

Christina Maxwell, U-M ‘2015, 21st Century Intern

and you made sure the performing arts were an integral part of student learning.

UMS works with faculty across campus to integrate UMS performances and the performing arts into their classes and instructional design, offering students a multi-disciplinary lens in approaching a wide range of academic topics.

What strikes me as pretty extraordinary is the way UMS extends opportunities for U-M faculty to engage students in reflection and conversation, in a safe and inclusive way, around performances that cover important and timely topics. It's quite remarkable what UMS brings to our community — both to Ann Arbor and to the University of Michigan.

You inspired thousands of K-12 students,

In the 2017-18 season, K-12 students from schools across Southeast Michigan brought a genuine sense of awe to UMS School Day Performances — Sphinx Virtuosi, Ragamala’s Written in Water, Chanticleer’s Heart of a Soldier, the Us/Them theater presentation, and Gerald Clayton’s Piedmont Blues (pictured above).

UMS School Day Performances, coupled with the pre- and post-show in-class workshops, provided an enormous service... As a teacher of severely emotionally impaired students, this opportunity to prepare, experience, and process a live arts performance is, for many, a first-time event... Gerald Clayton [Piedmont Blues] and his work inspired us all in the power of art to provide a medium for tough conversations and forgiveness.

Jill Ross, Beacon Day Treatment Center

ignited their imaginations and voices,

Back at their own schools, K-12 students participated in pre- and post-show workshops designed around School Day Performances. An extended residency around the Us/Them theater presentation gave students (pictured) from four area high schools the chance to create small theater pieces and share their voices and perspectives on a wide range of social issues that are particularly relevant to their lives — from bullying and racism to sexual harassment.

Thank you for working with our students at Eastpointe High School. They really appreciated your time and enjoyed meeting students from other schools and viewing their work. At this time, in particular, it makes a huge impact on these students to show them their voices are being heard. Thank you again!

Ms. Harr, Eastpointe High School

and encouraged them to share stories through the lens of hair.

Using the creative prompt “If my hair could talk, it would say...,” dancers from Urban Bush Women and professional teaching artists inspired and encouraged students at a number of area schools, including Scarlett Middle School, Ann Arbor Open, and Ypsilanti High School, to share their own personal stories.

Though my students were shy at first, they warmed up and really appreciated working with people who looked like them... They gave students permission to tell their own stories and helped them realize that even grown adults deal with the same issues they do. It made a big impression.

You amazed us with your generosity.

Over 60% of the UMS 2017-18 season was made possible by philanthropic support.

A community of nearly 1,500 donors contributed gifts of all sizes: annual gifts of $50 to $100,000, a new endowment, and a $1.6 million bequest — helping to ensure the creative, intellectual, and cultural vibrancy on campus and in our community is as vibrant as ever. And over 40 named endowment funds at UMS will continue to generate important annual operating support each season, giving forward for future generations.

Season Revenues - Actual
Earned Revenue38%
Ticket Revenue33%
Other Income5%
Contributed/Philanthropic Support62%
Individual Gifts24%
Endowment Income11%
U-M Partnership11%
Foundation & Government Grants9%
Corporate Gifts5%
Season Expenses - Actual
Education & Community Engagement13%
Administration & Development15%
NOTE: Data presented here represents preliminary figures for actual revenues and expenses for FYE June 30, 2018. Final audited financial statements will be available online by October, 2018.

However you participated,
your continued engagement and generosity mean we can continue to bring performing artists from around the world to Michigan, engaging audiences of all ages in extraordinary experiences that open a world of possibilities.

Thank you.