Accomplished music director aims to bring U of C Presents into Hyde Park and beyond

U of C Presents’ new director looks to expand the program to attract both students and Chicago residents.

By Ash Mayo

Amy Iwano, who has almost two decades of diverse music and administrative experience in Chicago, was appointed executive director of University of Chicago Presents (UCP) last week, ending a national search for a program head who will help raise the presence of the arts on campus.

Iwano, who will officially assume her duties on April 2, will oversee the program that has brought internationally renowned musicians to campus to participate in music festivals and series for over a century. For the last 18 years, Iwano has served as the executive director of the Chicago Chamber Musicians.

“The University of Chicago is an inspiring place to be,” Iwano said, adding that President Robert Zimmer had made it a “University mandate to support art,” a feeling she said was reinforced by the near-completion of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. The Center, which will be a new hub for arts on campus, will open next month.

Iwano speculated that many of the renowned artists that UCP brought to campus in the past might have escaped the notice of the University community. As UCP’s executive director, Iwano plans to get more members of the University community talking about the performances it hosts by better utilizing social media and videos. Iwano also wants to extend UCP’s reputation outside of Hyde Park, and hopes that the performances will draw more people into the community.

“I want to create more understanding and bring people closer to the arts,” Iwano said.

Martha Feldman, chair of the University’s music department, said that Iwano was selected to lead UCP from a national applicant pool because she would foster collaboration between different University arts programs.

“Ms. Iwano comes with inspiring programmatic vision and intellectual curiosity. She has imaginative ideas for how to cross-pollinate the academic and artistic initiatives at the University and how to bring music to a wide community, tremendous leadership skills, and a wealth of experience,” Feldman said in an e-mail.

Iwano said that she would try to make the arts on campus a more integral part of the experience students have at the U of C.

“I’d love for people, when they think of the arts, not to think of them as things saved for a special occasion, but for people—students—to make them a part of their everyday lives,” she said.

—Additional reporting by Allie Garfinkle