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New Kennedy Center head – Reputation as turnaround artist

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Michael Kaiser, the current director of London’s Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, will become the new head of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. early next year.

Kaiser will replace outgoing president Larry Wilker. Wilker is leaving the center to start an Internet arts and entertainment venture.

Both arts managers and artists praise Kaiser as someone whose fundamental motivation is love for the performing arts. His greatest claim to fame is in his ability to turn arts groups around, restoring money and morale to organizations on the verge of disaster.

“The Kennedy Center is very lucky,” said dancer Susan Jaffe, a veteran member of the American Ballet Theatre, one of four organizations Kaiser is credited with rescuing. “Not only has he tremendous business savvy, but his passion for arts has made him a miracle man.”

The Kennedy Center does not have financial problems, having raised $70 million already in its current $100 million campaign. There are continuing complaints about the artistic direction of the theatre, however. Critics say the theater offerings are primarily musicals, the ballet program is limited and that little original or adventurous work is produced.

Kaiser studied the violin and trained to sing opera before he realized his talents lay elsewhere. He has a degree from Brandeis and a master’s from MIT’s school of management. He had his own management consulting firm for about seven years before turning to arts work.

Kaiser’s salary and benefits have yet to be finalized.

For full story, go to the Washington Post.

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