Aspen Institute picks Schiller to direct arts program

By The Aspen Institute
Real AspenMarch 6, 2011
The Aspen Institute has appointed Ronald J. Schiller as the new director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program and Harman-Eisner Artist-in-Residence Program.

Currently president of the NPR Foundation, Schiller starts his new position on April 1, serving as the program's second director, following Dana Gioia's departure to serve on the faculty at the University of Southern California. He will be based out of the Institute's offices in Aspen.

Schiller has been a part-time and then full-time resident of Aspen since 2006.

"Ron Schiller embraces and lives the values that we share as a community," said Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson, "I am very pleased that he has agreed to join us to help us build a strong and vibrant arts program, the kind of program that we believe is central to the Institute's origins and to its mission."

Ronald Schiller
Photo by Dan Dry/University of Chicago

In accepting this position, Schiller said, "I am thrilled to join the Aspen Institute community. The Institute — with its history, its leadership, and its association with a community known around the world for its commitment to and leadership in the arts — is extremely well-positioned to make a major contribution to the arts both in America and abroad, exploring both in the arts and through the arts some of the most important and fascinating challenges and opportunities facing our society."

Sidney Harman, Institute trustee, chairman of the Committee on the Arts and co-benefactor of the Harman-Eisner Artist-in-Residence Program said: "With the appointment of Ron Schiller, we are positioned to further integrate the arts –– all the arts –– into everything we do. The arts should be, and will be, organic/intrinsic in all Aspen Institute activities. We expect that with Ron's engagement, the Institute will take leadership in proselytizing the arts throughout America and the world."

Harman's fellow trustee and benefactor Michael Eisner added: "In a wonderful essay, Maxwell Anderson states 'the arts make the longest reach toward permanence, create the most enduring monuments, project the farthest, widest, deepest influence of which human prescience and effort are capable.' We have so much to contribute to society through our arts program, and I am thrilled that Ron is joining us in this leadership role."

Aspen Institute Trustee Mercedes Bass, with whom Schiller works on the American Academy development committee, applauded his appointment, saying, "I am delighted that Ron is joining us, bringing his passion and experience as an artist, as a leading administrator, and as an accomplished fundraiser."

Elliot Gerson, executive VP for Policy and Public Programs at the Institute, said, "Dana Gioia helped to restore the arts to the critical position it played in the founding of the Aspen Institute and we fully expect Ron to carry that momentum forward with creative energy and flair."

Gerson also stated that "Ron's plans to expand the Institute's Arts Program will provide exciting synergies with the ongoing and independent work of the Institute's Global Initiative on Culture and Society led by Damien Pwono and that of the Aspen Writers' Foundation led by Lisa Consiglio."

Schiller has spent more than two decades working in the arts and in education. As head of the National Public Radio Foundation, he helped establish much greater collaboration in fundraising between NPR and its member stations. Previously, he served as vice president for Alumni Relations and Development at the University of Chicago where he led a $2 billion campaign and helped transform total fundraising progress from $160 million per year to over $500 million in 2009. He has also worked at Carnegie Mellon University, the Eastman School of Music, and the New England Conservatory of Music, and has been the associate director and acting director of choral music at Cornell University, where he conducted the Cornell Chorus and Cornell University Glee Club in performances throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Schiller has also served as music director of several other ensembles, including the Boston Saengerfest Men’s Chorus and the Voices of Cooperstown. He studied conducting and composition with Thomas Sokol, Karel Husa, and David Conte, among others. He has served on the boards of Chicago’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, where he was board chairman. Ron is currently a member of both the American Academy in Rome development committee and the Cornell University Council.

Dana Gioia was named Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California and begins teaching in the Fall of 2011. Gioia will continue his affiliation with the Aspen Institute as the Harman-Eisner Senior Fellow in the Arts.

The Aspen Institute Arts Program and Harman-Eisner Artist-in-Residence Program were established to support and invigorate the arts in America and to return the arts and artists to the center of the Aspen Institute’s “Great Conversation.” These programs bring artists and art works to the Institute, and also bring together leading artists, arts managers, sponsors, and patrons to generate, exchange, and develop ideas and policies to assure vibrancy and dynamism in all artistic realms, and to enrich civic culture in ways only the arts can do. These programs draw upon the Institute's long-established convening power, and its well-known association with ideas, values, and leadership. They take advantage of the Institute's fertile nonpartisan and interdisciplinary foundations and integrate arts and artists across the full breadth of the Institute's programs.

comments: 13 Comments on "Aspen Institute picks Schiller to direct arts program"

Ann – March 08, 2011, at 7:19 a.m.

I hope your new director of the arts program learns some discretion before taking on his new job. His comments released today regarding Jews and Zionists are disturbing to say the least. Let's just hope they don't impact any funding of the arts program.

Conn Sipe – March 08, 2011, at 8:58 a.m.

Congratulations at hiring such a well qualified liberal elite, conservative hating, radical islam loving individual. I thought he was very impressive on the James o' keefe video. What a wonderful man.

jvimum – March 08, 2011, at 9:46 a.m.

Having just watched the scam video where two liars were purporting to be from the Muslim Brotherhood offering money to NPR, I would say that Aspen is getting a man with a balanced viewpoint, unlike most of the media in the US. He was prepared to seek out and publicise all opinions, and not just the ones that suited his argument, showing an integrity that few are able to display nowadays. I'm a Christian, and I think that Muslims are demonised daily as a matter of course by much of our media and many of our political machines.
Enjoy your new post Mr Schiller and continue with your open minded attitude. It's very refreshing to know that such people exist in the US in these times.

jvimum – March 08, 2011, at 9:51 a.m.

Ann, if gaining funding from "Jews and Zionists" as you put it, threatens the integrity of the institution, then funding should be sought from elsewhere. You are either true to yourself or you sell out to the highest bidder. There are not enough people with scruples and principles in positions of responsibility these days. Money will not buy integrity, truth and decency. You have to show those for yourself.

Ann – March 08, 2011, at 10:47 a.m.

He stated that he doesn’t find “Zionist or pro-Israel” ideas at NPR “even among funders. "I mean it’s there in those who own newspapers, obviously, but no one owns NPR.” He also had a good laugh at NPR being referenced as National Palestinian Radio. I think it's safe to say that Mr. Schiller's anti-Semitism isn't particular surprising, just disturbing. As for scruples, Mr. Schiller seemed perfectly happy to take $5mn from an organization that freely admitted its roots were in the Muslim Brotherhood. So openminded, so refreshing, so blatantly unscrupulous.

Liz – March 08, 2011, at 11:12 a.m.

"Mr. Schiller embraces and lives the values that we share as a community". What??? So, everyone in the Aspen community is an anti-Semite with complete disdain for white people who believe in God. Will you be reporting the funding he brings in from the radical Muslim community? As for jvimum's response - Schiller has an 'open mind' because he supports Muslims, but shows across the board hatred for white middle America? A hater is still a hater regardless of which group he choses to blindly attack.

jvimum – March 08, 2011, at 11:24 a.m.

I was referring to your comment about Mr Schiller's remarks affecting the funding of the arts programme at Aspen. If we have to be worried about offending groups who fund us because we wish to be open minded, then that is where the lack of scruples lies. We are thinking only of the money and not our integrity as an organisation.
And why would it be unscrupulous to take funding from Muslims at Aspen? Prividing there are no strings attached, accepting funding from a Muslim source is no worse than accepting it from a Jewish, Hindu or Christian source. Unless of course you want to demonise Muslims.
All religions are transnational movements and they will never co-exist peacefully until we all show tolerance and respect, and stop falling for the antics of trouble-making scam video makers who are only out to discredit people on the opposite side of the political spectrum. We need to be above that kind of thing.

jvimum – March 08, 2011, at 11:28 a.m.

Liz - how does having a conversation with Muslims equate to "hatred of white middle America?"
Is white middle America so insecure that it can't even contemplate a conversation and a business relationship with anybody of a religion other than Christianity or Judaism? Surely white middle America is not so small minded. Or is it?

Ann – March 08, 2011, at 1:38 p.m.

There is nothing unscrupulous about taking money from Muslims, however, given the radical history of the Muslim Brotherhood, I question why anyone with scruples would take funding from an organization which made no secret of its radical founding roots.
A conversation and a business relationship are indeed two quite different forms of participation. I'm also happy to have a conversation with a convicted felon, but that doesn't mean I'd engage with him in a business relationship.
Dialogue is indeed important, Mr. Schiller's performance on the video was that of an effete snob with an open mind about the Muslim Brotherhood and a distaste for white middle America. And, you know, he's entitled to that opinion and Aspen is welcome to have him. I daresay, NPR is delighted that they won't have to deal with firing him over its latest public relations snafu.

Ken – March 08, 2011, at 2:13 p.m.

I own property in Aspen and plan to retire there. After seeing the video and Mr. Schiller's opionion of the majority of Americans. I won't be a donor, and will work to help others see that there are plenty of options on supporting the arts without having to support a person like this as well.

Dog_Breath23 – March 08, 2011, at 2:50 p.m.

How can an an organization dedicated to " dialogue on contemporary issues" even consider hiring this individual?

NPRcreed – March 09, 2011, at 12:05 a.m.

jvimum, perhaps you missed the story, but the "two liars"( who quite successfully punked this ridiculous and inept greed-mongering bigot who hates anyone and everyone with a different worldview than he or NPR has) claimed to be members of The Muslim Brotherhood, you know, the group whose original leader was a big admirer of Hitler. Also, the group that spawned Hamas and Hezbollah. You sound like the typical leftist..."Jews and Conservatives-Bad" "Leftist Racists-Good". No wonder why you guys got destroyed in the last election. You better get used to it, your party is over. Enjoy your new racist with his "wonderful values". Further proof who the true intolerant hypocritical racists are despite the accusations hurled at the other side.

TR – March 09, 2011, at 5:38 a.m.

If you are serious about raising fund for the Aspen Institute, you should rethink your decision to hire Ron Schiller. Racist bigots like Ron Schiller are too polarizing to ever be successful. As for me, don't call me, I will call you.

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