Chicago Symphony president Deborah Rutter named Kennedy Center president

Deborah F. Rutter, president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association for the past decade, has been named president of the Kennedy Center, effective Sept. 1, 2014. She will succeed Michael M. Kaiser.

As top administrator for one of the world's greatest orchestras, Rutter is a major figure in the performing arts world. The Chicago Symphony has enjoyed substantial growth in fundraising and ticket sales during her tenure. Rutter also succeeded in getting eminent Italian conductor Riccardo Muti to accept the job as the orchestra's music director.


"The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is in a great place -- musically, financially, the artistic leadership, and from an audience perspective," Rutter said in an interview Tuesday. "So I thought if I'm ever going to leave, it should be when things are going really well."

Rutter, 57, who described the Kennedy Center as "the nation's arts center," said there will "not be any one art form" she will focus on; she is looking forward to being involved in "all of the riches here."


In Chicago and Seattle, where she lived when she was executive director of the Seattle Symphony, Rutter was involved with more than orchestral activities. "I've been a subscriber and a collaborator with other art forms," she said. "In Chicago, we've had city-wide festivals quite frequently and partnered with other organizations, not just arts organizations."

The Kennedy Center, which has held many multi-genre festivals, is home to the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera, among others, and a presenter of a wide range of cultural events.

Weekend Watch

Weekend Watch


Plan your weekend with our picks for the best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV shows and more. Delivered every Thursday.

As center president, Rutter will oversee all of this activity. She will have a familiar associate in NSO music director Christoph Eschenbach, former music director of the Chicago Symphony's Ravinia Festival. "He's a great guy," Rutter said.

In a statement released Tuesday, Rutter said that her responsibility as Kennedy Center president is to foster "an environment conducive to artistic achievement —to encourage excellence, to provide creative vision and direction, and to nurture energy and talent."

She also advocated open "access to the arts" for "all who live in our country," and called for "citizen artists" to contribute "to our culture and our communities."

Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein noted Rutter's "long, well-respected track record of managing and enhancing performing arts organizations."

Muti praised Rutter's "strong commitment to the great importance of the arts and culture" and predicted the Kennedy Center "will be an even stronger institution because of [her] leadership."

Kaiser, whose decade-plus tenure will end Aug. 31, 2014, is heading to the University of Maryland to lead the DeVos Institute of Arts Management.


Rutter is the third president of the Kennedy Center, and the first woman in that post.