Toronto philanthropist Michael M. Koerner, C.M. will receive the International Society for the Performing Arts’ (ISPA) Angel Award for his many contributions to the arts landscape in the city and beyond — including the celebrated concert hall that bears his name.
Luminato CEO Anthony Sargent nominated Koerner for the award recognition, and will be presenting the honour to him on April 26, 2019 in a ceremony at — appropriately — Koerner Hall. He’ll receive the honour at the beginning of the evening’s concert of András Keller conducting the Royal Conservatory Orchestra in a program of Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Sargent explained why he’d made the nomination in a media release.
“Michael Koerner’s generosity has made and will continue to make a profound contribution to the performing arts for generations to come. Michael and Sonja Koerner’s gift to The Royal Conservatory of Music 15 years ago made possible the creation of the jewel-like Koerner Hall, widely considered to be the best concert hall of its size in North America and one of the finest concert halls in the world. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year after a decade presenting spectacularly eclectic, world-class programming, Koerner Hall has formed enduring relationships with many of the most exciting artists in the world in all musical genres. I am very proud that Luminato had this opportunity to honour one of Canada’s most visionary and generous philanthropists.”
The awards were announced in a ceremony in New York City in January. Other recipients of the 2019 include conductor Gustavo Dudamel for the Distinguished Artist Award, Alistair Spalding CBE, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Sadler’s Wells, for the International Citation of Merit, and Jacqueline Z. Davis, Executive Director of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, for the Patrick Hayes Award.
The international organization noted, “Michael Koerner is a visionary philanthropist whose generosity has had and will continue to have a profound impact on the performing arts in Canada and around the world for generations to come.”
It’s not the first time Koerner has been recognized for his significant contributions to culture and arts through philanthropy. Along with honorary degrees from Queen’s University and the University of British Columbia, he’s received the Edmund C. Bovey Award, the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts. the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee medals, and a Canadian Conference of the Arts Award. He is also a Member of the Order of Canada, a distinction he received in 1984.
In this renewed era of cuts to arts funding at all levels, the significance of arts-minded philanthropists to the culture sector can’t be underemphasized. According to the ISPA website, the Angel Award, “is presented to an individual or organization which has demonstrated a significant and lasting contribution to the support of the performing arts which transcends the boundaries of one country or institution, and merits international recognition. This achievement may be through outstanding leadership, advocacy, philanthropy, innovation, scholarship, or curatorship.” Previous Angel Award winners have included The Mirvish Family Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, noted collector Barbara G. Fleischman, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, among others.
President of Canada Overseas Investments Limited since 1959, Michael M. Koerner was born in Prague in the Czech Republic, and went to school in the UK and Vancouver. After receiving a BSc from MIT, he went on to earn an MBA from Harvard. Largely through The Koerner Foundation, which he founded in 1986, he has supported a wide variety of arts organizations in Canada, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, The Banff Centre, Shaw Festival, and the Royal Conservatory of Music. Along with his arts philanthropy, he has supported research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, and at the University of British Columbia.
Along with providing the seed money for Koerner Hall, Koerner and his wife Sonja donated their private collection of antique instruments, currently on view in the Hall’s atrium. On receiving the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts in 2015, he was quoted in a media release.
“I’m interested in helping people create art. You can’t have performing arts without creativity, so the first thing one should support is creativity.”
[Update: April 26: The article has been updated to confirm that the award will be awarded at the beginning of the event, rather than at the intermission.]