Described by Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times as a "firebrand," Richard Kessler holds a dual appointment as executive dean for the Performing Arts at The New School and dean of Mannes College, the century-old music conservatory at The New School. In his role as executive dean for the Performing Arts, Kessler is working to unify the performing arts schools of The New School. As dean of Mannes, Richard Kessler developed and implemented a comprehensive strategic plan designed to make Mannes the most progressive high-quality music conservatory in the world. The plan leaves little untouched and has resulted in a significantly expanded curriculum reflecting a rethinking of the nature of music education in the 21st century. The plan created new degree programs, minors, and core proficiencies and a wide range of new activities in partnership with the other colleges of The New School.
Dean Kessler's career in the arts spans three decades and is marked by a record of distinguished vision and leadership as a musician, educator, teaching artist, advocate, and organizational officer. Before his appointment as dean of Mannes in 2011, Kessler served as executive director of The Center for Arts Education (CAE) from 2004 to 2011. Kessler led CAE through a period of significant expansion, which included growth in the areas of advocacy, government affairs, media relations, and coalition building. Under Kessler's leadership, CAE secured two highly competitive grants from the United States Department of Education and $17 million in support from Walter and Leonore Annenberg. Through the establishment of new training programs for teaching artists and classroom teachers, institutes for school principals, and parent learning programs, Kessler helped CAE become the rare organization that blends advocacy and policy with direct-service programs in arts education. Before working at CAE, Kessler was executive director of the American Music Center and vice president of Artsvision, an international arts education consulting company.
Dean Kessler continues to serve as a consultant, advisor, and board member of leading arts and education institutions. He is chair of the board of Chamber Music America and sits on the boards of American Composers Orchestra, The Festival of New Trumpet Music, the Original Music Workshop, and Great Minds. As a trombonist, Kessler has performed with the New York City Ballet, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, and CBS Network Television and was a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music teaching brass chamber music. Kessler's brass ensemble, the Saturday Brass Quintet, was the winner of the 1990 Walter W. Naumburg Chamber Music Award, the 1986 Rafael Mendez International Brass Quintet Competition, and the 1984 Artist International Competition. Kessler studied trombone with Edward Herman, Gilbert Cohen, John Swallow, and Norman Bolter. Kessler's chamber music studies include work with Alexander Schneider, Gerard Schwarz, Sam Pilafian, Ray Mase, and Kenneth Cooper. Dean Kessler received his BM and MM from The Juilliard School.
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