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Classical 101

Interview With Michael Kaiser, The Turnaround King

Michael Kaiser (dubbed by some press outlets as "The Turnaround King") is President of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. His book The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations follows five arts organizations as they struggled to stay alive through their resurgence.

“I feel like the creativity has been beaten out of us (Kaiser said). We’re so scared about money that we’re afraid to do really interesting, innovative work.â€? - New York Times

In this interview, Kaiser describes his work with helping to rescue arts organizations, including the Kansas City Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, Barney Simon and Johannesburg’s Market Theatre, and London’s Royal Opera House (which was facing a 30-million-dollar debt!).

Highlights From This Interview:

"Arts organizations that are challenged - typically, when they get scared - the first places they turn to is to cut the artistic initiatives and the marketing initiatives. And they cut there because they seem the most discretionary. But the truth is when you cut art and you cut marketing, you cut the very reason people support you." (When faced with a struggling arts organization) "The first thing I do is a comprehensive plan for the organization, and a major element of that is: "What exciting work can we announce for the next few years to get people excited and re-energized about my organization?" "One of the challenges of being in this (arts) profession that you see such so much, that it takes more and more to thrill (me). I'm thrilled by a really, really great performance in any art form, but it really has to be special and interesting and full of energy. I've always liked artists who throw themselves fully into their work." "When I started in this business, and started doing the turnarounds, I was much more callow, and I was much more self-concerned, and much more concerned about how I looked, and what people thought about me. And now I'm much less concerned about that. I'm more concerned about how you actually do something that will leave a mark on the world." [audio src="http://wosu.org/audio/arts/2008/michael_kaiser-interview-091508.mp3"]

Classical 101 michael kaiser
Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.