Duke Performances — the professional performing arts presenting organization at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina — is dedicated to bringing world-class performing artists, who are diverse, essential, and forward thinking, to perform at Duke and in Durham, to engage the Duke and Durham communities and beyond, and to partner with artists on the development and presentation of performance. Drawing on the resources of a leading research university and an exciting and invigorated Durham community, Duke Performances serves as a space for reflection, a laboratory for creative and critical inquiry, and a place for socially engaged performance.
Annually, Duke Performances offers a robust season of 80-100 world-class performances, making extensive use of a network of Duke and Durham venues, and presenting artists spanning classical, new music, jazz, Americana, independent rock, international music, theater, and dance.
Duke University has a long-standing history of presenting the world’s leading artists to its community. J. Foster “Bishop” Barnes, Director of Chapel Music at Duke Chapel, founded and served as Director of the Duke Artists Series from 1931 to 1956. The Artists Series’ mission was to offer the finest in classical music, opera, and dance to the Duke and Durham communities. William J. Griffith III, Director of both the Student Union and Student Activities, followed Barnes as Director of the Artists Series, serving from 1956 to 1969.
In 1956 Griffith invited Ella Fountain Pratt to develop arts programs for the Student Union. Pratt ultimately ran the Artists Series as well as the Duke Office of Cultural Affairs from 1969 to 1984. During her years at Duke, Pratt presented artists as diverse as Leontyne Price, Itzhak Perlman, Jean-Pierre Rampal, and many others. Upon Pratt’s retirement in 1984, Susan Coon was named Director of the Artists Series, running the series through 2002. Coon also served as Director of the Office of Cultural Affairs from 1984 to 1993.
Founded in 1982 under the direction of James Applewhite, the Duke Institute of the Arts presented artistic programming and festivals for Duke and the Durham community. Michael Cerveris, Sr. served as the Institute’s first full-time director from 1985 to 1990, when Cerveris was succeeded by Kathy Silbiger. During her tenure, Silbiger presented guest artists, created an artist-in-residence program, and co-created programming with other arts-related academic departments at Duke. In 2004 Duke Performances was born out of a merging of the Institute of the Arts and the Artists Series.
Silbiger retired in 2006 and was succeeded in 2007 by Aaron Greenwald, at a point where the University made a significant commitment to the arts in its new strategic plan. Since that time the organization has commissioned, developed, and premiered major new work from numerous forward-thinking artists. Under Greenwald’s direction, Duke Performances evolved into a world-class university presenter whose mission serves three distinct initiatives: artistic quality, supporting campus and academic priorities, and playing a role in the renaissance of the City of Durham.
May 28, 2020: Bobby Asher Appointed Duke Performances Director
June 12, 2018: Duke Performances Announces 2018/2019 Season
February 27, 2018: Duke Announces Three-Year Partnership with American Ballet Theatre
June 13, 2017: Duke Performances Announces 2017/2018 Season
April 18, 2017: Duke Performances Announces 2017 Music in the Gardens