First woman named to head D.C.'s Kennedy Center

Published Dec. 10, 2013

WASHINGTON — The head of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has been named president of the Kennedy Center, becoming the first woman to lead the performing arts center since it opened in 1971.

Deborah F. Rutter, 57, will join the Kennedy Center in September. Rutter will succeed Michael Kaiser, who is stepping down in August after 13 years at the helm.

Rutter has led the Chicago Symphony since 2003. During that time, the orchestra recruited maestro Riccardo Muti, an acclaimed Italian conductor, as music director and cellist Yo-Yo Ma as creative consultant. She previously led the Seattle Symphony.

As an arts administrator, Rutter distinguished herself as a prolific fundraiser who could recruit top talent and boost outreach to new audiences, said Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein. An 11-member search panel that included Caroline Kennedy seriously considered 15 to 25 candidates.

The Kennedy Center president serves as artistic and administrative leader for extensive programs in theater, dance, chamber music and jazz. She'll oversee the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera at one of the world's busiest performing arts centers. It has one of the nation's largest arts education programs and is a memorial to President John F. Kennedy.