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Kansas University has picked Derek Kwan, vice president of concerts and touring at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, as the new executive director of the Lied Center of Kansas, the university announced Wednesday.
Kwan will replace Executive Director Tim Van Leer, who is retiring after leading the Lied Center for the past 12 years.
Kwan has been vice president at Jazz at Lincoln Center since 2012. Previous to that he was an associate director of Jazz at Lincoln Center from 2000 to 2005. In between he served as executive director of programming at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Mich., from 2007 to 2012. He will begin in his new position at the Lied in January.
Kwan's visit to Lawrence in October, when he toured campus and spoke at an open forum at the Lied Center Pavillion, was his first time seeing the university and the city. On the trip, he talked with students, faculty, administrators, donors and others with interests in the Lied Center.
He told the Journal-World Wednesday that he had been excited by the possibilities of deepening collaboration between the Lied and the university as well as the city. "Everyone was just so engaged and enthusiastic and passionate about the Lied and its future," he said.
During his presentation in October, Kwan stressed the need to give people in the community a voice in programming at the Lied Center. In his first months on the job, Kwan plans on meeting with people and groups around campus and the city to "reach out and establish positive working relationships."
Robert Walzel, dean of the KU School of Music and chairman of the search committee to choose a new Lied director, said he hopes Kwan can attract KU students to the Lied by giving them a more active role in programming choice. "It's been disappointing that we haven't seen more students take advantage of the opportunity" to attend cultural events at the center while attending KU, Walzel said. He hopes Kwan can "really re-energize what the Lied Center can be for the campus and the community as well."
The search committee, which consisted of KU faculty, students, Lied Staff, donors and others, was "very excited, to a person, about Derek as a candidate," Walzel said. Once the committee made a recommendation, KU Provost Jeffrey Vitter and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little made the final decision.
Doug Wendel, associate director of the Lied and a member of the search committee, said, "We're pleased that we selected Derek and that he was able to come aboard… He has the right combination of experience and knowledge and background in the arts."
When Kwan starts work in January, one of his first tasks will be helping to finalize programming for the 2014-15 year. That, along with meeting with folks from the community to hear what they would like to see at the Lied, ought to keep him busy.
"He'll have a lot on his plate," Wendel said.