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Michael Kaiser
Michael M. Kaiser is Chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management.

From 2001 to 2014, he served as president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Dubbed “the Turnaround King” for his work at numerous institutions, including the Royal Opera House (London), American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the Kansas City Ballet, Michael has earned international renown for his expertise in arts management. Through the DeVos Institute and the Kennedy Center, he has advised performing arts organizations around the world, working with arts leaders in nearly 70 countries.

In 2001, Michael founded the Institute to provide advanced training for young arts administrators and has developed a series of programs to help train others in the field. He created a Capacity Building Program for Culturally Specific Arts Organizations, which offers mentoring services to the leaders of African American, Latino, Asian American and Native American arts groups from across the United States. A similar program was instituted for over 280 arts organizations in New York City. In February 2009, he created Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative, a program to provide free arts management consulting to non-profit performing arts organizations around the United States. He embarked on a 50-state tour for the program, bringing his expertise to every state in the Union along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

His fifth book, Leading Roles: 50 Questions Every Arts Board Should Ask, was published in 2010.

Entries by Michael Kaiser


(0) Comments | Posted January 26, 2015 | 9:47 AM

One of the benefits of working as a consultant is that it offers the opportunity to view so many different styles of management and to observe the consequences of each style.

It is clear to me that there is not only one "correct" way of managing. Some managers are very...

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Marek Vrabec

(0) Comments | Posted January 19, 2015 | 12:43 PM

Every teacher I know will tell you about the immense satisfaction that comes from watching a former student accomplish great things. It isn't enough simply to give an entertaining class; one wants to see the students apply the lessons they have learned and use them.

Over the past 25 years,...

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Making a MOOC

(1) Comments | Posted January 12, 2015 | 10:08 AM

One of the most exciting aspects of bringing the DeVos Institute of Arts Management to the University of Maryland is to have access to a range of technical assets and expertise that most arts institutions can only dream about -- from web design to sophisticated communications options to virtual reality.

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Sticking One's Head in the Sand

(1) Comments | Posted January 5, 2015 | 1:29 PM

In a recent article about the impending closing of yet another American orchestra, one executive from a second orchestra was bemoaning the discussion about the reduction in interest in classical music and opera. In particular, he was upset with Peter Gelb's comments about a reduction in demand for opera and...

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Heroic Donors

(0) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 9:12 AM

I have written a great deal about the various approaches that help troubled arts organizations reestablish financial stability. Developing a turnaround plan that reveals longer-term artistic plans, aggressive institutional marketing campaigns and proposes a restructured board is one key approach that I have found to be useful. Without such a...

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Teaching Abroad

(0) Comments | Posted December 8, 2014 | 10:55 AM

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of my work at the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland is the teaching work we do abroad. The arts environment is deeply challenging here in the United States, but it is more so in other countries where government funding is...

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Young Patrons Groups

(0) Comments | Posted December 1, 2014 | 8:45 AM

There is one suggestion I have heard very frequently from board members that is sure to elicit groans from the development department of an arts organization: Form a young donors group so that there will be a strong donor base in the future.

The rationale of the board members...

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What I Am Giving Thanks for This Year

(1) Comments | Posted November 24, 2014 | 8:48 AM

This has been a momentous year in my life, and I have a great deal to be thankful for.

I am thankful for having had almost 14 years as President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and for the artists, crew, staff members, board members and...

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A Tale of Two Cities

(0) Comments | Posted November 17, 2014 | 9:32 AM

Seattle lost a vital theater company when the Balagan Theatre announced on September 24 that it was permanently suspending operations. The Balagan Theatre produced well-received musicals and plays -- from August: Osage County to Hedwig and the Angry Inch -- on small budgets. As the theater grew more visible, it...

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No News Is Bad News

(0) Comments | Posted November 10, 2014 | 8:49 AM

I am a voracious consumer of arts news; I read as many news stories, reviews and features as I can in newspapers, websites and other electronic outlets. Yet, as a new arts season has begun, I have been struck by the nature of the arts coverage that I have been...

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The Planning Committee

(0) Comments | Posted November 3, 2014 | 9:16 AM

Developing a potent strategic plan is not easy. Simply survey a large sample of plans for arts organizations, and one will find a bland sameness to most of them. They are often more a collection of wishes than a purposeful set of clear, implementable strategies.

This often results from the...

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The Search for Continuity

(0) Comments | Posted October 27, 2014 | 10:18 AM

I have recently been talking with a large number of performers who work with a range of dance, music and theater organizations in an effort to learn what they care about most and are concerned about most in the current arts climate.

The most often cited desire is for some...

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City by City: Variations in the Arts Ecology

(0) Comments | Posted October 20, 2014 | 10:42 AM

We often read about the challenges facing rural arts institutions or even those that operate in less populous cities and states. Building a philanthropic base, for example, is more challenging in rural Kansas than it is in Kansas City, Missouri. There are fewer donors and audience members, less press attention...

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Needed: Arts Management Mentors

(0) Comments | Posted October 14, 2014 | 11:47 AM

There is a great deal of discussion about the need for building tomorrow's audiences if the arts world is to survive. In response, most arts institutions devote substantial efforts to arts education and audience development programs. These programs, in the main, are laudable and important, and we do need to...

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Brava Joan Weill!

(0) Comments | Posted October 6, 2014 | 11:18 AM

I often teach that arts organizations should design their 'ideal board' and then work to build that board over time. By 'ideal,' I do not mean a group of the richest, most powerful people in the country; most arts organizations do not have the ability to attract these people. I...

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Strife (Again) at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

(2) Comments | Posted September 29, 2014 | 1:46 PM

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has joined the growing list of arts institutions that have locked out (or threatened to lock out) its artists unless substantial wage concessions can be obtained. In each case, management believes that large deficits will only be erased if costs are reduced substantially.

But the situation...

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Crisis in Europe

(0) Comments | Posted September 22, 2014 | 11:01 AM

A recent item on was as chilling as it was concise: "In its 2013 annual report, released last week, the Royal Concertgebouw has predicted that, without immediate support from the Netherlands government, it will be forced to disband by 2016."

The Concertgebouw is considered by many...

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In Search of Balance

(1) Comments | Posted September 15, 2014 | 10:04 AM

A few weeks ago, a seasoned arts professional called me "the patron saint of artistic directors." He did not mean it as a compliment. He suggested that my focus on creating important, exciting art had empowered artistic directors to spend what they wanted regardless of the capabilities of their organizations...

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The DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland

(2) Comments | Posted September 8, 2014 | 10:37 AM

Last week, the DeVos Institute of Arts Management officially moved to the University of Maryland. The Institute was created at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2001, was named the DeVos Institute in 2010 and will now reside at the University of Maryland. Brett Egan and...

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Settling at the Met

(0) Comments | Posted September 2, 2014 | 9:13 AM

The biggest news in the arts world over the past month was the settlement the Metropolitan Opera reached with its many unions. The management of the company had stated that without significant cost reductions, the institution could not remain viable. The problems at the Metropolitan have been evident for years....

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