The next leader of the Lied Center of Kansas brings strong experience and some good priorities to the job, which bodes well for the future of this local performing arts gem.
Kansas University leaders announced Wednesday that Derek Kwan had been selected to replace Tim Van Leer who will retire at the end of the year after 12 years at the Lied Center’s helm. Kwan will come to Lawrence from New York City, where he currently serves as vice president of concerts and touring for Jazz at Lincoln Center. In that job, he has overseen programming and marketing of hundreds of performance in New York and on international tours of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. Just over a year ago, he helped implement webcasts of performances that reach viewers in all 50 states and more than 160 countries.
Kwan’s experience certainly reflects an energy and innovation that likely will benefit the Lied Center in many ways.
After his hiring was announced, Kwan reiterated his desire to reach out to the community in various ways, including involving community members and KU students in programming choices for the Lied Center. In his interview for the job last month he listed a number of innovative ideas to make the Lied Center a “collaborative partner” in the arts on campus. Among those was working with KU Memorial Unions and the KU School of Music and School of the Arts on performances and invitations to the Lied Center.
Drawing on his recent experience at Jazz at Lincoln Center he also hopes to offer live webcasts of some Lied Center performances. Christina Hixson, who donated the money to create and expand the Lied Center, may not have envisioned live webcasts, but making use of that technological advance certainly fits with her mission to carry Lied Center performances to broad and diverse audiences that might not otherwise have access to the performing arts.
Kwan also said he would like to get KU arts and business students to collaborate in nonprofit work. That pairing comes naturally to Kwan, who holds a bachelor’s degree in music and political science from Duke University and a master’s of business administration from the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the University of Wisconsin School of Business.
In its first 20 years, the Lied Center has carved out a strong reputation as the area’s premiere performing arts center. Kwan’s hiring seems to set the stage for even greater innovation and excellence in the years ahead.