Back to all news stories

A leader recognized

By Truly Render

Kenneth C. Fischer, president of the University Musical Society (UMS) of the University of Michigan, was recognized by his peers at the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) Conference on January 10 in New York City at APAP’s Annual Awards Ceremony and Luncheon in the Grand Ballroom of the New York Hilton.

Fischer (photo left; video below) received the Fan Taylor Distinguished Service Award, presented each year to an individual whose outstanding service, creative thinking, and leadership have had a significant impact on the profession of presenting and/or on the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.  The recipient of the award is kept secret until the annual luncheon at the APAP|NYC conference.

Fischer has been at the helm of UMS for 24 seasons.  During that time, he has served on the Arts Presenters’ Board of Directors for two different full terms, including serving as the Board’s Vice Chair.  APAP President and CEO Sandra Gibson said, “Ken has been an amazing supporter and colleague, and a tremendous contributor to the field.”

“Oh, man, this is a big surprise,” said an emotional Ken Fischer after being presented with the award and after being informed that his wife Penny, son Matt, daughter-in-law Renee, and grandson Alex were present in the room. “To be receiving an award that’s named after Fan Taylor, who founded this organization [Association of Performing Arts Presenters] is deeply meaningful recognition for me.

“When I started at UMS, I tried to learn from those who had gone before me — both at UMS and within the field of concert presenting.  My faculty became the presenters whom others admire and respect.  Rather than give me answers, my colleagues suggested critical questions that I should be asking myself.”  After talking about the legacy of long-serving predecessors at UMS (Gail Rector from 1957-1987 and Charlie Sink from 1904-1968) and his mentor, Patrick Hayes, who desegregated the theaters of Washington, D.C., Fischer added two more thank yous: “To the community of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, which have provided support for the arts for 131 years. We are so lucky, so blessed with this particular community, which is absolutely extraordinary.  And finally, my magnificent staff colleagues.”

The award is named for Fan Taylor, for her many contributions to the field of presenting.  Taylor was instrumental in the development of what was then called the Association of College and University Concert Managers, which evolved in Arts Presenters.  She served as Arts Presenters’ first secretary-treasurer and eventually its first executive director.  She passed away in 2008 at the age of 94.  Fischer is not the first UMS employee to receive the Fan Taylor Award, which was first presented in 1972; former executive director Gail Rector received it in 1985.

The event was emceed by actor David Hyde Pierce.

NOTE: Above photo from

Truly Render is a writer and public relations specialist for the University Musical Society.