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Ken Fischer

President, University Musical Society, University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Kenneth Fischer is President Emeritus of the University Musical Society (UMS) of the University of Michigan (U-M), a position he held for 30 years between 1987-2017. UMS, an independent multi-disciplinary performing arts presenter with a long and deep affiliation with U-M, is located on the Ann Arbor campus and offers 60-90 concerts each season, performed in up to nine University and community venues. Since its founding in 1879, UMS has presented top-ranking international artists in dance, theater, and music.


Under Ken’s leadership UMS greatly expanded and diversified its programming and its audiences; deepened its engagement with the University and southeast Michigan communities; created exemplary partnerships with leading corporations, arts organizations, educational institutions, and community organizations; and received significant grants awarded by the leading foundations in the arts. In 2015 UMS received the National Medal of Arts which Ken accepted on behalf of UMS from President Obama at the White House.


Ken has contributed to the performing arts presenting field as a speaker, workshop leader, writer, consultant, panelist, and cultural ambassador under U.S. State Department auspices to many countries. He serves or has served on the boards of many professional organizations and is an Emeritus Trustee of the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Ken has been recognized for his career achievements and service to the field of the performing arts by Association of Performing Arts Professionals, International Society for the Performing Arts, and Chamber Music America. In 2013 he received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from The College of Wooster (OH) and in 2012 received the Mariam Noland Award for Nonprofit Leadership from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. In 2019 Ken received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Michigan.


Ken has served on the Board of Directors of Arts Midwest since 1992. During that time he has been a member of many committees and has participated in two Arts Midwest delegations to China. Ken was also a host site supervisor for Minority Arts Administration Fellows in 1992 and 1994.


Since his retirement from UMS, Ken is teaching Arts Leadership at U-M’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance and has written a book on his career in the performing arts titled Everybody In, Nobody Out: Inspiring Community at Michigan’s University Musical Society published by the University of Michigan Press, August 2020.


Before UMS Ken was a higher education association executive and management consultant in Washington, DC, specializing in the design and management of meetings, seminars, and conferences. He is the author of Little Big Winners, 77 Ideas for a Better Conference. Ken has degrees from The College of Wooster (religion) and University of Michigan (the study of higher education). He is married to professional flutist Penny Peterson Fischer whom he met at Interlochen Arts Camp when both were teens. Their son Matt, who is Vice President of Apple overseeing the App Store, lives with his wife Renee and two sons in the San Francisco Bay Area.