UMS Announces Matthew VanBesien as New President
New York Philharmonic President Becomes 7th President Since 1879
Matthew VanBesien, president of the New York Philharmonic, will become president of the University Musical Society of the University of Michigan in July 2017.
VanBesien, who has served as president of the New York Philharmonic since 2012, will take the reins from Kenneth C. Fischer, who retires at the end of June 2017 after 30 years in the job. He will become only the seventh president in UMS’s 138-year history.
We caught up with Matthew in New York in January.
We can’t wait to introduce Matthew to you in the coming months! Please join us in welcoming him to UMS and to Ann Arbor.
Full Press Release
ANN ARBOR, MI (January 24, 2017) — Matthew VanBesien, president of the New York Philharmonic, will become president of the University Musical Society of the University of Michigan in July 2017.
VanBesien, who has served as president of the New York Philharmonic since 2012, will take the reins from Kenneth C. Fischer, who retires at the end of June 2017 after 30 years in the job. He will become only the seventh president in UMS’s 138-year history after Henry Simmons Frieze (1879-81, 1883-89), Alexander Winchell (1881-83, 1889-91), Francis Kelsey (1891-1927), Charles Sink (1927-68), Gail Rector (1968-86), and Ken Fischer (1987-2017).
Matthew VanBesien said, “I am truly honored to become the next president of UMS. UMS, its extraordinary programming, staff, and board are, simply put, among the most admired in the performing arts field. It’s my great privilege to be able to succeed Ken Fischer, who I know and deeply respect, and with whom I’ve collaborated during my tenure at the New York Philharmonic. While my career has been centered in the orchestral world for the last 25 years, I’m extremely excited about the diversity of programming that UMS offers, both on the stage and working throughout their community. I’ve visited Ann Arbor several times over the past few years and love the energy and sense of commitment that pervades both the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor community. My wife Rosie and I are looking forward to moving to Michigan and immersing ourselves in all that the region offers.”
Stephen Forrest, chair of the UMS Board chair and of the Search Committee, commented, “We began the search process over a year ago and were extremely pleased with the quality, diversity and strength of the candidate pool. Matthew’s experiences in Ann Arbor and with the New York Philharmonic, his appreciation for the unique university environment in which we operate, and his vision for the organization catapulted him to the top of our choices for the next president of UMS. We are thrilled and honored that he has elected to join UMS, and are excited to embark on this next chapter of UMS’s extraordinary history under Matthew’s leadership.”
Sarah Nicoli, vice chair of the UMS Board, added, “Matthew brings everything that the search committee had hoped to find in its ideal candidate: long experience in the arts, a gift for making connections with people, and an extraordinary ability to turn long-term vision into short-term action. Ken Fischer has left an incredible legacy at UMS, and I have every confidence that Matthew will continue to expand that fine work.”
A former French horn player, Matthew VanBesien spent eight years performing with the Louisiana Philharmonic before joining the League of American Orchestras’ management fellowship program. Upon completion of that program, he worked with the Houston Symphony for seven years, rising to executive director and CEO for the final four years of his tenure. He spent two years as managing director of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in Australia before returning to the United States to become executive director of the New York Philharmonic in 2012. He was named president of the New York Philharmonic in 2014.
During his tenure at the New York Philharmonic, Matthew VanBesien has helped develop and execute innovative programs along with music director Alan Gilbert, such as the NY PHIL BIENNIAL in 2014 and 2016, the Art of the Score film and music series, and exciting productions like Jeanne d’Arc au bucher with Marion Cotillard and Sweeney Todd with Emma Thompson. He led the creation of the New York Philharmonic’s Global Academy initiative, which offers educational partnerships with cultural institutions in Shanghai, Santa Barbara, Houston, and Interlochen to train talented pre-professional musicians, often alongside performance residencies. He led a successful music director search, with Jaap van Zweden appointed to the role beginning in 2018; the formation of the Philharmonic’s International Advisory Board and President’s Council; and the unique and successful multi-year residency and educational partnership in Shanghai, China.
He serves on the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras, a membership organization comprised of hundreds of orchestras from across North America, and the Executive Committee for the Avery Fisher Career Grants, which provides professional assistance and recognition to talented instrumentalists.
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Matthew VanBesien earned a bachelor of music degree in French horn performance from Indiana University. In May 2014 Mr. VanBesien received an Honorary Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Manhattan School of Music. He is married to Rosanne Jowitt, an accomplished geoscientist in the oil and gas business.
“A university can be neither excellent nor comprehensive without fostering cultural appreciation and the humanistic connections made possible by the arts. U-M’s 200 years as a premier public institution would be much less meaningful without the University Musical Society,” said University of Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel. “I have had the pleasure of seeing the benefits of Matthew’s work on our campus and in Southeast Michigan, and I am certain that he will continue to advance the amazing impact of UMS and extend its influence ever more broadly throughout our academic community.”
Aaron Dworkin, dean of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance and a member of the Search Committee, said, “I am greatly looking forward to working with Matthew VanBesien in his new role at UMS. Our students at the School still talk about the wonderful New York Philharmonic residency last year and how it expanded both their performance and entrepreneurial skill sets. UMS and SMTD have a history of partnering on projects large and small, and I couldn’t be happier that we’ll be able to continue that important work with Matthew.”
“I was elated when UMS Board leadership told me that Matthew VanBesien would be UMS’s next president. I’ve known Matthew for many years, and I know that UMS is in great hands under his leadership,” said Ken Fischer, current president of UMS. “This is a wise choice, and that we could attract a candidate of Matthew’s caliber says a lot about the vibrancy and support of this organization, this University, and this community. I couldn’t be more delighted.”
UMS Programming Director Michael Kondziolka added, “Having had the opportunity to work with Matthew in various contexts over the past few years, I am confident that his appointment provides an opportunity for seamless transition for our UMS team. Together, with Matthew at the helm, we are energized to continue our mission of serving diverse audiences, artists, and communities. Indeed, we are excited to watch our work evolve and flourish over the coming years.”
The search was led by Spencer Stuart. The search committee included Stephen Forrest, chair of the UMS Board; Rachel Bendit, secretary of the UMS Board; Lisa Cook, UMS Board member; Aaron Dworkin, dean of the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance; Linda Gregerson, U-M Professor of English and Literature; Michael Kondziolka, UMS director of programming; Tim Lynch, U-M vice president and general counsel; Tim Marshall, president & CEO of Bank of Ann Arbor; Sarah Nicoli, vice chair of the UMS Board; Mike Ross, director of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois; Rhemé Sloan, U-M ’14, working at Rice University; and Dr. James Stanley, UMS Campaign co-chair.
A National Medal of Arts recipient (2014), UMS contributes to a vibrant cultural community by connecting audiences with performing artists from around the world in uncommon and engaging experiences. By juxtaposing innovative/creative work with traditional/interpretive work, UMS frames an exploration of performance forms within a diverse, international cultural lens.
Also known as the University Musical Society, UMS is an independent non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Michigan, presenting over 70 music, theater, and dance performances by professional touring artists each season, along with over 100 free educational activities for K-12 students, teachers, university students, and the community, with sustained efforts to engage and celebrate regional communities of shared heritage. Since its founding in 1879, strong leadership, coupled with outstanding venues, authentic artistic and community collaborations, dynamic education programs, and enduring commitment to excellence, has placed UMS in a league of internationally-recognized performing arts presenters.
Legendary artists presented by UMS over the years include Marian Anderson, Vladimir Horowitz, Leonard Bernstein, Robert Wilson, Ornette Coleman, Jessye Norman, Robert Lepage, Enrico Caruso, Celia Cruz, Sonny Rollins, Peter Brook, Youssou N’Dour, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Gilberto Gil, along with extended campus residencies with leading ensembles such as Royal Shakespeare Company (England), Complicite (England), Setagaya Public Theatre (Tokyo), Théâtre de la Ville (Paris); Martha Graham Dance Company (New York), and Handspring Puppet Theater (Johannesburg); the New York, Vienna, and Berlin Philharmonics, and others. UMS also hosts the Grammy-Award-winning UMS Choral Union, a 175-voice chorus that performs with local and visiting orchestras. UMS presents performances in multiple venues throughout the region and on the University campus, most notably including Hill Auditorium, acknowledged by many artists since its opening in 1913 as one of the great concert halls of the world.
UMS is part of the University of Michigan’s “Victors for Michigan” campaign, reinforcing its commitment to bold artistic leadership, engaged learning through the arts, and access and inclusiveness. Since 1990, the organization has co-commissioned and supported the production of nearly 80 new or reimagined works over the past 25 years, such as the recent remounting of Robert Wilson and Philip Glass’s iconic opera Einstein on the Beach.
Sara Billmann, Director of Marketing & Communications
Lawrence Perelman, Semantix Creative Group
Sounds of 2016-17 Season
Listen to a sampling of music by artists on our newly-announced 2016-17 season:
Series tickets are now on sale. Subscribers get the best seats at the best prices, and lots of other perks.
UMS President Ken Fischer Announces Retirement
UMS President Ken Fischer announces retirement. Fischer will step down at end of 2016-17 season after 30 years.
Kenneth C. Fischer, president of the University Musical Society of the University of Michigan (UMS), has announced that he will retire from UMS on June 30, 2017, at the conclusion of his 30th year in the job. A long UMS tenure is not unique to Ken; he is only the sixth person to serve as UMS president during its 137-year history after Henry Simmons Frieze (1879-81, 1883-89), Alexander Winchell (1881-83, 1889-91), Francis Kelsey (1891-1927), Charles Sink (1927-68), and Gail Rector (1968-86).
“Ken has been a remarkable leader for UMS. He has brought this organization to global prominence that has changed not only the performing arts scene but also the quality of life in our city and region,” said Stephen R. Forrest, chair of the UMS Board of Directors. “Ken has followed a highly inclusive philosophy of ‘everybody in, nobody out’ that has had an enormous impact on so many people, who under his leadership have developed a lifelong passion for the arts. He will certainly be missed but he leaves a legacy that will continue long into the future.”
Fischer, 71, took the reins of UMS on June 1, 1987. Over the past three decades, he has overseen the organization’s artistic growth and diversification into ongoing commitments to art forms outside of classical music; expansion into K-12, university, and community education programs; and initiatives to put UMS on a secure financial footing. Under Fischer’s visionary leadership, UMS has greatly expanded and diversified its programming and its audiences, deepening its engagement with the University (including relationships with 70 academic units and more than 200 faculty) and southeast Michigan communities; created exemplary partnerships with leading artistic collaborators across the world; taken an active role in commissioning new works; and received significant grants awarded by prominent foundations that support the arts, including the Wallace Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Major artists and residencies presented during Fischer’s time include being one of only four cities in the country to present the Vienna Philharmonic’s final tour with Leonard Bernstein (1988), celebrating Bernstein’s 70th birthday and Hill Auditorium’s 75th; debuts of many artists who were unknown when they were first presented but went on to celebrated careers, most notably Cecilia Bartoli (1993); a celebration of Martha Graham’s centenary (1994); a multi-year partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company (2001-2012), which included the presentation of 10 plays as well as the creative development of five others; Einstein on the Beach (2012), which launched the final production with the original creators and went on to tour 14 cities in 11 countries; and in-depth work with the Arab-American community in metro Detroit, which launched eight years of global programming focused on specific regions of the world (Arab/Middle East, Asia and the Subcontinent, Africa, and the Americas). UMS has also commissioned, co-commissioned, or co-produced more than 60 works in dance, theater, and music since 1990.
Under Fischer’s tenure, UMS was named a 2014 National Medal of Arts recipient, the first university presenter to receive this highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government. Since his first season in 1987, UMS’s budget has grown fourfold, due in large part to expansion of mainstage artistic programs but also to the development of a robust education and community engagement programs.
Fischer is known widely as a caring, supportive, and enthusiastic colleague and mentor. He is legendary in his ability to build relationships and make connections among colleagues, often leading them to unique and fruitful collaborations. Fischer has developed UMS under his philosophy of “EINO” — Everybody In, Nobody Out — which he attributes to his mentor, the late Patrick Hayes of Washington, DC. This philosophy is now intrinsic to UMS’s work and guides the organization in building a truly inclusive and multicultural community around all of its mainstage and educational programming.
Fischer has also contributed to the performing arts presenting field as a speaker, workshop leader, panelist, and cultural ambassador to Brazil, China, Lithuania, and Mexico under U.S. State Department auspices. He serves on the boards of directors of National Arts Strategies, International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA), Arts Midwest, Sphinx Organization, and Ann Arbor SPARK and has also served on the boards of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) and Chamber Music America (CMA). ISPA honored him with the Patrick Hayes Award in 2003, and APAP and CMA have presented him with their highest recognition through the Fan Taylor Award (APAP, 2011) and the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award (CMA, 2016). He is an emeritus trustee of the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Locally, he has been recognized by the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, The Links, Inc., the Ann Arbor Public Schools Foundation, Neutral Zone, Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County, and others for his contributions to the Ann Arbor community.
A native of Plymouth, MI, Fischer spent considerable time in Washington, D.C. prior to coming to UMS, working as a management consultant with particular focus in higher education (he completed coursework for a PhD candidate in higher education at the University of Michigan) and independent concert production. He is married to professional flutist Penelope Peterson Fischer; they have one son, Matt, who lives with his wife Renee and their two children in California.
Fischer says, “When I look back at my first season at UMS and the season that we are just finishing, I am so proud of how this organization has grown artistically and educationally, and of the astonishing support that our devoted community of audience members and donors provides. Their willingness to take risks means that UMS can program exciting, ground-breaking artistic work that balances the traditional programming that we were known for in our early years. But I want to reassure people: while I get a lot of the credit for UMS’s success, I have a terrific team of over 30 colleagues that makes it all happen, and they will continue to do so after I retire as president.”
UMS will announce its 2016-17 season, which includes several concerts programmed with Ken’s final year in mind, on April 16.
The executive search and recruitment firm Spencer Stuart has been retained and a search committee appointed to assist UMS with the search for a new president. The search committee includes: Stephen Forrest, chair of the UMS Board; Rachel Bendit, secretary of the UMS Board; Lisa Cook, UMS Board member; Aaron Dworkin, Dean of the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance; Linda Gregerson, U-M Professor of English and Literature; Michael Kondziolka, UMS Director of Programming; Tim Lynch, U-M Vice President and General Counsel; Tim Marshall, President & CEO of Bank of Ann Arbor; Sarah Nicoli, vice chair of the UMS Board; Mike Ross, director of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois; Rhemé Sloan, U-M ’14, working at the Houston Symphony; and Dr. James Stanley, UMS Campaign co-chair.
One of the oldest performing arts presenters in the country, UMS (also known as the University Musical Society) contributes to a vibrant cultural community by connecting audiences with performing artists from around the world in uncommon and engaging experiences. UMS is an independent non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Michigan, presenting over 70 music, theater, and dance performances by professional touring artists each season, along with over 100 free educational activities. UMS is part of the University of Michigan’s “Victors for Michigan” campaign, reinforcing its commitment to bold artistic leadership, engaged learning through the arts, and access and inclusiveness. UMS was awarded the 2014 National Medal of Arts by President Obama.
Sara Billmann, Director of Marketing & Communications
734.763.0611 // firstname.lastname@example.org
Announcing our 2014-2015 season!
We can’t wait for this season to begin.
This year, we are challenging the boundaries of convention while honoring tradition. We’re taking you on a remarkable journey that is sure to enlighten, inspire, transport, and transform. Welcome to the 2014-2015 UMS Season.
Each UMS season is designed to take you on a journey. A geographical journey throughout the world. A journey of genre, expanding definitions and dimensions. A journey inward, created to inspire selfreflection. Come witness all that we have to offer.
Find out more about who’s coming, watch our season announcement video:
For chapters of this video focusing on each series, check out our YouTube channel.
Check out our 2014-2015 season brochure:
We’ve also got the complete 2014-2015 season listing with details about each event on our website.
Which performances are you excited about? Tell us in the comments below.