Aaron Dworkin

About Aaron

Aaron Dworkin

Named a 2005 MacArthur Fellow, a former member of the Obama National Arts Policy Committee, and President Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts, Aaron P. Dworkin serves as dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, which is ranked among the top performing arts schools in the nation. He is also the founder of The Sphinx Organization, the leading national arts organization for transforming lives through the power of diversity and the arts. A multi-media performing artist, author, social entrepreneur, artist-citizen, and educator, he continually receives extensive national recognition for his leadership and service to communities. Dean Dworkin founded the Dworkin Foundation where he serves as chairman of the Board. His memoir titled Uncommon Rhythm: A Black, White, Jewish, Jehovah's Witness, Irish Catholic Adoptee's Journey to Leadership was released through Aquarius Press.

Dean Dworkin has been featured in People Magazine, on NBC’s Today Show and Nightly News, CNN, NPR’s The Story and Performance Today. He has been the subject of articles in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, Washington Post, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Emerge and Jet Magazines, and many other media outlets, and was named one of Newsweek’s “15 People Who Make America Great.” He is the recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society Honorary Membership, Harvard University’s Vosgerchian Teaching Award, National Governors Association 2005 Distinguished Service to State Government Award, Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award, Detroit News’s 2003 Michiganian of the Year Award, Crain’s 40 Under 40 and Who’s Who Awards, BET’s History Makers in the Making Award, AT&T Excellence in Education Award, and National Black MBA’s Entrepreneur of The Year.

A passionate advocate for excellence in arts education and inclusion in the performing arts, Dean Dworkin has been a frequent keynote speaker and lecturer at numerous national conferences including the Aspen Ideas Conference, Independent Sector, Dance USA National Conference, The League of American Orchestras, National Association for Schools of Music, National Guild for Community School of the Arts, National Association of Music Merchants, Chautauqua Institution, National Suzuki Association, Americans for the Arts, American String Teachers Association, Ithaca College, and the National Association for Negro Musicians. He served as commencement speaker at the Curtis Institute of Music, University of Michigan, Longy Conservatory and twice for Bowling Green State University. In May of 2013, the renowned Curtis Institute of Music awarded Honorary Doctorates to Dworkin and Sir Simon Rattle, longtime maestro of the Berlin Philharmonic.

Dean Dworkin serves regularly as a panelist on influential arts committees such as Independent Sector’s Advisory Group, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the MetLife Awards for Excellence in Community Engagement, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, the National Association of Arts Presenters, Chamber Music America, The National Endowment for the Arts, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Surdna Foundation Arts Teachers Fellowship Program, and others.

As the co-chair of the Arts and Cultural Education Task Force for the State of Michigan, Dean Dworkin designed the required arts curriculum for Michigan schools and served as co-chair of the Planning Task Force, which oversaw the strategic merger of ArtServe Michigan (statewide arts advocacy organization) and MACAA (Michigan Association of Community Arts Agencies). In addition, he serves on other strategic planning committees including the League of American Orchestras. 

Dean Dworkin serves (or has served) on the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras, National Association of Performing Arts Presenters, National Society for the Gifted and Talented, and Creative Many Michigan (formerly ArtServe Michigan). His board service also includes the Knight Foundation’s Arts Advisory Board, Advisory Board of ASTA Alternative Strings Awards, Rachel Barton Pine Foundation and the Avery Fisher Artist Program, Editorial Board of Downtown New York Magazine and Independent Sector’s NGen Awards Committee.

Dworkin recorded and produced two CDs, entitled Ebony Rhythm and Bar-Talk, in addition to writing, producing, and directing the independent film Deliberation. An accomplished electric and acoustic violinist, Dean Dworkin earned his bachelors of music and masters of music in violin performance from the University of Michigan School of Music, graduating with high honors. He also attended the Peabody Institute, the Philadelphia New School, and the Interlochen Arts Academy studying with Vladimir Graffman, Berl Senofsky, Jascha Brodsky, John Eaken, Renata Knific, Donald Hopkins, and Stephen Shipps.

The author of a poetry collection, They Said I Wasn’t Really Black, as well as the children’s book The 1st Adventure of Chilli Pepperz, Dworkin’s writings have been featured in Symphony Magazine, Polyphonic.org, Andante, and other websites and publications. He contributed to the first English edition of Superior Bowing Technique, a treatise by legendary violinist Lucien Capet, and authored the foreword to William Grant Still’s Violin Collection. Dean Dworkin founded and served as publisher and editor-in-chief of The Bard, a literary magazine with a readership of over 40,000.

Dean Dworkin offers a uniquely strong organizational, fundraising, and administrative background combined with an unwavering passion for music and its role in society. As dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, he leads a world-class faculty of 150 and a staff of 90 while administering a budget of $44 million and an endowment in excess of $140 million. As founder of the Sphinx Organization, Dworkin created an organization with a staff and faculty of over 40 and a budget of $5 million that awards more than $1,000,000 in prizes and scholarships annually. The organization serves as the leading advocate for young people and diversity in the arts in the world.

A lifelong musician, Dean Dworkin is also a spoken-word and visual artist. He has strong interests in politics, world history, and issues of economic and social justice. In addition to various genres of music and disciplines of the performing arts, he enjoys travel, movies, and culinary arts.