As executive director of Wharton Center for Performing Arts, Mike Brand supervises a dedicated staff and oversees planning a diverse season of entertainment in four venues: the Cobb Great Hall, Pasant Theatre, MSU Concert Auditorium and Fairchild Theatre.
Brand began as Wharton Center’s executive director in December of 2003, and since that time, he has helped lead the Center to national prominence as a premier performing arts center. He has expanded and diversified programming by utilizing all four theatres and is positioning the region as an entertainment destination, thereby reaching new audiences of all ages and backgrounds throughout the state and upper Midwest.
Part of Brand’s overall vision is to expand Wharton Center’s collaborations by presenting many of Michigan’s finest arts organizations. Recent collaborations have included the MSU College of Music, Lansing Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Grand Rapids Ballet and Michigan Opera Theatre. Additional collaborations are planned in the future, including a comprehensive artist-in-residence program and enhanced lifelong learning opportunities.
Today, Wharton Center is about much more than the performances that grace its stages. Whether it’s the countless programs that integrate the arts and academics or the engagement activities that take Wharton Center into the community or unique programs like Seats 4 Kids, a scholarship fund providing tickets to economically-disadvantaged children, a key part of Wharton Center’s mission is to enrich lives and strengthen the value of the arts in everyday life.
Programs such as the Act One School Series, Jazz Kats-Jazz For Kids, and Young Playwrights Festival integrate performing arts into the K-12 curriculum for more than 30,000 children each year. Master classes, artist residencies and community engagement activities help ensure that the arts remain a relevant part of people’s lives, regardless of age and background.
Before coming to Wharton Center, Brand was Vice President of the theatrical division of Clear Channel Entertainment, he initiated the rebirth of the Baltimore Center for Performing Arts, returning the Center to its former prominence and played a major role in the creation of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton, Wisconsin, where the initial Broadway subscription exceeded 7,000 patrons.
Prior to his term with Clear Channel, Brand was the Executive Director of Jujamcyn Productions in Minneapolis where he provided managerial oversight for six subscription series in markets throughout the country. His vision at Jujamcyn resulted in substantial growth that led to the acquisition of Jujamcyn Productions by SFX, and later Clear Channel Entertainment. Before working with Jujamcyn and Clear Channel, Brand spent ten years at The Ordway Music Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota. During his time at the Ordway, Brand worked in virtually every facet of the organization eventually becoming Vice President, responsible for all programming and marketing. With Brand’s guidance the Ordway Music Theatre became one of the preeminent centers in the country.
Michael Brand is also an accomplished trumpet player and teacher. He has taught at several colleges and has performed with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra to name a few. He received a BS in Music from the University of Minnesota and did post graduate work at Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota.