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Michael Kaiser
Michael M. Kaiser is 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 Kennedy Center, he has advised performing arts organizations around the world, working with arts leaders in nearly 70 countries.

In 2001, Michael created the Kennedy Center Arts Management 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

International Touring

(0) Comments | Posted April 21, 2014 | 8:05 AM

I have to admit it: in my 30 year arts management career I have been ambivalent about the value of international touring. While many of my peers disagree strenuously with me, for every benefit of touring I can list a countervailing cost.

It is clear that when an ensemble...

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Calvin and E.J.

(1) Comments | Posted April 14, 2014 | 9:18 AM

Last week, I wrote in my blog of my special history with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I mentioned that to celebrate my last time presenting the company, I was given a Revelations stool as a gift. I did not mention that I also received via email a photograph...

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My Life With Alvin Ailey

(0) Comments | Posted April 7, 2014 | 8:32 AM

As I count down the number of days left until I leave the Kennedy Center, I am getting nostalgic about my entire career. No one producing arts organization has had a bigger impact on my life than the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

I first met Alvin when I was...

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The Need for Arts Journalists

(2) Comments | Posted March 31, 2014 | 8:34 AM

I have written before about the gradual decline in the amount of serious arts criticism. Too many newspapers are saving money by eliminating their arts coverage or by reducing the amount of coverage in favor of popular arts coverage.

When I wrote about this last time I was bombarded...

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Angels or Devils

(0) Comments | Posted March 24, 2014 | 8:28 AM

There are many reasons why arts organizations today are facing cash constraints: lower demand, aging donor bases, substitute forms of entertainment, and on and on. These are serious, problematic and long-lasting challenges facing most of us.

But there is one reason that a subset of arts organizations are facing difficulties...

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The Best Arts Job in the World

(1) Comments | Posted March 17, 2014 | 8:24 AM

The Kennedy Center recently announced that Deborah Rutter will become its new president in September. It is with great ambivalence that I leave my job to Deborah.

Not because I have any doubt she will do a spectacular job -- Deborah is smart, creative, kind and experienced. I am confident...

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Getting the Most From Your Most Potent Board Members

(2) Comments | Posted March 10, 2014 | 8:50 AM

As virtually every arts organization tries to improve their fundraising results, the pressure to get help from board members becomes a priority. And yet, try as they might, I find that many arts managers find it difficult, and often impossible, to get board members to assist, actively, in the fundraising...

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The Balancing Act of the Executive Director

(0) Comments | Posted March 3, 2014 | 8:41 AM

One of the questions I am asked most often by board members of arts organizations is, "What should we be looking for as we hire a new executive director for our organization." There are numerous skills and qualities an executive director of an arts organization should possess, but my experience...

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The Importance of Full-Year Financial Forecasts

(1) Comments | Posted February 24, 2014 | 8:33 AM

At a time when financial health has become so precarious for too many arts organizations, it is a cause of concern that a great many arts organizations do not take one important precaution: they do not forecast year end results periodically throughout the fiscal year.

Most organizations do year-to-date results...

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Likely vs. Able

(0) Comments | Posted February 18, 2014 | 8:01 AM

I have noticed an increasing number of arts organizations planning capital campaigns. This may simply be one result of a recovering economy -- few arts organizations felt capable of raising large sums in the years immediately following the stock market crash of 2008. Now that the market is back at...

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Avoiding Silos

(1) Comments | Posted February 10, 2014 | 7:31 AM

I have written often about the problems that emerge when silos develop within arts organizations; when artists, marketers and fundraisers stay in their own corners and do not collaborate with each other, the power of the cycle is lost. When artists do not communicate their plans to marketers and fundraisers,...

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An Amazing Week

(0) Comments | Posted February 3, 2014 | 9:01 AM

I have grown increasingly nervous about the future of diverse arts institutions in the United States. So many have disappeared, others are facing huge cash problems and most are watching as donors shift their priorities to other interests.

But I recently had an amazing week with two of my consulting...

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A Good News Orchestra Story

(2) Comments | Posted January 27, 2014 | 8:12 AM

It was heartening to read about the progress made by the Cincinnati Symphony that recently celebrated a new music director, Louis Langree. The elements of this story are a textbook case for the way an orchestra -- and any other arts organization -- can survive, even thrive, in the current...

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What We Learned in Minnesota

(3) Comments | Posted January 21, 2014 | 7:43 AM

Thank goodness the Minnesota Orchestra lockout is over.

As many commentators have pointed out, now the hard work begins. After 15 months, the orchestra musicians now have to get back to their real business of making music. Staff has to confirm soloists and conductors, sell tickets, raise money, etc. But...

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It's Time to Celebrate

(0) Comments | Posted January 13, 2014 | 7:34 AM

I sat in a meeting with a respected businessman the other day who was skeptical about the ability of a specific arts organization to turn around its financial health. "Everywhere you look," he said, "arts organizations are going bankrupt. They all are struggling now."

This was news to me.


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Farewell, Kate Levin

(0) Comments | Posted January 6, 2014 | 7:29 AM

Mayor Bloomberg has just ended his twelve year tenure as mayor; he governed over a remarkably turbulent span in American economic history: from post 9/11 gloom through the 2008 stock market crash. What is astonishing is how well New York arts organizations fared over the course of these past twelve...

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The Ideal Board

(0) Comments | Posted December 16, 2013 | 7:23 AM

Almost every arts institution I know is trying to increase the potency and productivity of its board of directors. As we experience (often dramatic) reduction in government and corporate grants and as we compete harder for earned income and foundation grants, we all hope that a stronger board will give...

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Nelson Mandela and the Arts of South Africa

(0) Comments | Posted December 9, 2013 | 7:49 AM

There will be so much written about Nelson Mandela in the wake of his passing -- about his personal history, the struggle for equality in South Africa, his political contributions -- but, I fear, there will be little discussion about his impact on the arts of South Africa, and the...

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Grabbing Every Opportunity

(0) Comments | Posted December 2, 2013 | 7:29 AM

I was sitting in a meeting of a board development committee of one of my clients when someone uttered the conventional wisdom, "We need to grab at every opportunity."

Everyone nodded in knowing consent and happily created a long list of actions the committee and the staff should pursue in...

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When Cultivation Events Are Not Cultivation Events

(1) Comments | Posted November 25, 2013 | 7:16 AM

I think there is a great deal of confusion about the meaning of 'cultivation event.' Every arts organization I know mounts several of these a year - from pre-performance lectures, to drinks parties in board members' homes, to lectures by curators to studio showings. These events are typically considered important...

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