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Kim H. Kowalke President and CEO

1981 -

In 1980 Lotte Lenya invited Kowalke to join the Board of Trustees of the then dormant Kurt Weill Foundation for Music.  Upon her death a year later, he succeeded her as its president at her request.  In that capacity for the past four decades, he has overseen the evolution and expansion of the Foundation’s programs and initiatives, including the founding of the Kurt Weill Edition and the Lotte Lenya Singing Competition.  He did so while holding academic appointments and maintaining an active career as a scholar and conductor.

After receiving his BA in mathematics and music summa cum laude from Macalester College, Kim H. Kowalke earned a Ph.D. in music history from Yale in 1977 with a dissertation on Kurt Weill in Europe (Theron Rockwell Field Prize).  He spent the next nine years at Occidental College in Los Angles, where he conducted the orchestra, taught music history and musical theater.  In 1986 he accepted an invitation from the University of Rochester to establish a music department within the College, while holding a joint appointment in the Eastman School of Music.  He chaired the department intermittently for a total of 18 years, while teaching courses in music history and founding the UR Musical Theater Workshop.  He also taught graduate seminars in musicology at Eastman and conducted productions of Eastman Opera Theater.  In 2000 he received the Goergen Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and then was appointed the Richard L. Turner Professor in the Humanities.  Kowalke retired to emeritus status in 2019.

As one of the foremost Weill-scholars and musicologists of his generation, Kowalke won five ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in writing about music and two Irving Lowens Prizes for outstanding articles on American music.  His edition of the correspondence of Weill and Lenya, published in both English and German, was named a “book of the year” by both the New York and Financial Times.  It has inspired two stage musicals: LoveMusik (Broadway 2007, directed by Harold Prince and currently in repertory at Leipzig Opera) and Lenya Story (Vienna, 2017; Berlin 2018). Three other books, twelve chapters in anthologies, two dozen scholarly articles, and numerous essays and reviews have addressed topics ranging from music and theater in the Weimar Republic (Weill, Orff, Hindemith, Eisler) to Whitman and American music; from American musical theater (Golden Age, and most recently Sondheim) to musical practice in the Third Reich.  He has authored three documentaries for the BBC, conceived numerous musical revues, devised new pieces deriving from Weill’s stage works, produced recordings and a PBS radio series, and conducted more than fifty productions of musicals and operettas.  In 2020 he received the Erwin Piscator Honorary Award for his contributions to the performance and study of musical theater.

He and his wife of 42 years Elizabeth have one son, Kyle, and they are thrilled to welcome his fiancée Mary Francz to the family when COVID permits their wedding to occur.


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