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Mike Brand Retirement

Mike Brand with Clifton and Dolores Wharton and Ken Beachler

July 16, 2021

Mike Brand announces retirement after 17 years at Wharton Center

Next season, Wharton Center will celebrate its 40th anniversary. During those 40 years, there have been only three executive directors, Ken Beachler (1982-1992), Bill Wright (1992-2004), and Mike Brand. After 17 years as Executive Director, Brand has announced this will be his final season at Wharton Center, retiring by June 2022.

“MSU’s Wharton Center provides world-class performing arts opportunities for the campus community, Greater Lansing region, and beyond,” said MSU Provost Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. “Mr. Brand has been at the center of those contributions for 17 years, ensuring the high quality and rich diversity of Wharton Center’s programming while advancing the arts as a vital component of Michigan State University’s mission and values.” 

Wharton Center has experienced significant growth under Brand’s leadership. When he took over as Executive Director in 2003, Wharton’s annual budget was $5 million, with 97,000 tickets sold. In 2019, Wharton Center was on track to sell almost 140,000 tickets with a budget of $16 million. Brand’s leadership has continued through the pandemic, with the 21-22 season signaling Wharton Center’s return to the stage with a lineup of programming, including Leslie Odom, Jr., Itzhak Perlman, and the return of Hamilton.

Among Brand’s many accomplishments was integrating the work of Wharton Center into MSU colleges and units. He recognized the vital role the arts play in the academic and student life experience on campus. Wharton Center consistently connects high-quality artists with faculty and students across campus to provide an outlet for creativity in their education. Brand also fostered a partnership with the MSU Federal Credit Union, resulting in the creation of the Institute for Arts and Creativity, which provides accessible arts education programs to nearly 30,000 learners across the state of Michigan each season.

Brand’s work with the Broadway League, the national trade association for the Broadway industry, spans more than 40 years. He is a member of the League’s Board of Governors, currently serving on his second three-year term, served as the League’s Audience Engagement Committee co-chair, and is a member of the National High School Musical Awards Advisory Board. In addition, he has been a Tony Award® voter for 32 years.

Before joining Wharton Center, Brand worked in the performing arts industry as a performer, teacher, and presenter. He was a Regional Vice President for Clear Channel Entertainment, where he initiated the rebirth of the Baltimore Center for Performing Arts and played a significant role in creating the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton, Wisconsin. Brand also served as Executive Director of Jujamcyn Productions in Minneapolis and served as the first Vice President for Programming and Marketing at the Ordway Music Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota.

As a performer, Brand spent 16 seasons performing trumpet with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well as engagements with the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Opera Orchestra. His residency and teaching work included stops at St. Olaf College, Carleton College, and St. Thomas University. He received a BS in Music from the University of Minnesota and did post-graduate work at Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota.