Synopses & Reviews
Reynold Levy joined Lincoln Center in 2002. When he did so Americaand#8217;s leading arts venue was routinely described in terms like this:
and#147;Behind the scenes, however, Lincoln Center is a community in deep distress, riven by conflict over a grandiose $1 billion redevelopment planand#133; instead of uniting the Centerand#8217;s constituent arts organizations behind a common goal, the project has pitted them against one another in open warfare more reminiscent of the shoot-out at the OK Corral than of a night at the opera. and#145;To say that it is a mess is putting it mildly,and#8217; says Johanna Fiedler, the author and a former staff member at the Metropolitan Opera. and#145;There is nobody running the show right now.and#8217;and#8221; (Leslie Bennetts, New York Magazineand#184; February 4, 2002)
To choose to be President of Lincoln Center of oneand#8217;s own free will was regarded by Reynold Levyand#8217;s friends and mentors as bordering on a self-destructive act. Rivalries abounded. Personalities clashed. Egos reigned. Reputations were badly damaged. And many of the tensions were dramatically played out in public and assiduously reported by a delighted press.
Levy had just spent six years traipsing through much of the Third World and many failed states as the President of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), one of the worldand#8217;s leading refugee assistance organizations. Having dealt with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Serbia, even Joe Volpe, the volcanic manager of the Metropolitan Opera seemed hardly daunting. Lincoln Center, its key figures with their bombast and betrayals was not South Sudan. So he set to, and during his presidency transformed Lincoln Centerand#8217;s entire 16-acre campus including the city block from Broadway to Amsterdam Avenue.
With the new Alice Tully Hall, the expansion of The Juilliard School, two new screening rooms and an education center for the Film Society, new dance studios for the School of American Ballet, came a beautifully designed, graceful welcome to Lincoln Centerand#8217;s main campus, one filled with light and life. There were new green spaces, new restaurants, a totally wifiand#8217;d campus that displayed 21st Century technology indoors and out. And a remodeled, utterly transformed, privately owned public space called the David Rubenstein Atrium, named after its principal donor, a new Lincoln Center Commons, opened free of charge to the public 365 days a year.
This book reveals the real story behind the 1.2 billion dollar reinvention of Lincoln Center, and all the trials and triumphs along the way. It contains unique lessons for leaders in all kinds of organizations, cautionary tales for employees, volunteers and donors, and inspiring clarity for anyone who wants to lead an institution they believe in so that it can become the best version of itself.
and#147;Reynold Levy has a rare blend of talents, all of which are on display in this compelling book, a memoir that is neither self-reverential nor full of false pieties. There is no bitterness, but there is surprising candor. Prominent people should be shamed, including those who nearly ran great cultural institutions into the ground. The lessons to be extracted could fuel an entire curriculum at the Harvard Business School, or a Department of Psychology.and#8221; and#150;Ken Auletta, Media Critic, The New Yorker
New York Times bestseller
and#147;The most entertaining passages of the book chronicle the indefatigably upbeat Levyand#8217;s fight to get a tangled web of stakeholders onboard with the project. He is unafraid to name the names of those who fought against the redevelopment [of Lincoln Center] at the beginning and he is refreshingly candid about what he perceives as the misguided policies of some of Lincoln Centerand#8217;s constituent organizations.and#133; it attests to the energy of his account and to the passion of his diagnoses of the Centerand#8217;s persistent, if alleviated, ills, that he pushes the reader into the future, projecting new problems and envisioning solutions.and#8221; and#150;New York Times Book Review
and#147;Sure to make waves in the genteel world of New Yorkand#8217;s elite cultural institutions, where foes tend to exchange air kisses in public and keep their battles private. Mr. Levyand#8217;s willingness to name names may not quite reach youand#8217;ll-never-eat-lunch-in-this-town-again levels but could make for some awkward encounters at the chic Lincoln Ristorante.and#8221; and#150;The New York Times
and#147;Levy, with his persuasive and owlish mien, proved to be the administrative virtuoso Lincoln Center had been waiting for. No need to take his word for it. Just walk around. The campus today is what he and architect Elizabeth Diller said it would be, only busier, more open, more glamorous, more comfortable and more fun. If the renovation [of Lincoln Center] were a movie, its credit roll would run for 20 minutes, but it would be fair to call it a Reynold Levy production.and#8221; and#150;Vulture
and#147;Levyand#8217;s unabashed enthusiasm for the non-profit arts helps us understand why a place like Lincoln Center is important, even in this profit-oriented eraand#133;They Told Me Not to Take that Job provides a good, sometimes sad look at what the arts have been going through over the last couple of decades.and#8221; and#150;Maclean's
and#147;Reynold Levy has a rare blend of talents, all of which are on display in this compelling book, a memoir that is neither self-reverential nor full of false pieties. There is no bitterness, but there is surprising candor. Prominent people should be shamed, including those who nearly ran great cultural institutions into the ground. The lessons to be extracted could fuel an entire curriculum at the Harvard Business School, or a Department of Psychology.and#8221; and#150;Ken Auletta, bestselling author and writer for The New Yorker
"Reynold Levy led the 21st century transformation of Lincoln Center and his depiction of that undertaking is incisive, fresh and entertaining. They Told Me Not to Take That Job is brilliant and highly readable. Anyone who cares about how great cultural organizations operate and grow must read Levyand#8217;s masterful account." and#150;David Rubenstein, Co-Founder of the Carlyle Group
"The qualities that Reynold Levy marshals in this book are the very ones that transformed Lincoln Center, and before that, the International Rescue Committee and the 92nd Street Y. Strategic vision, fearless execution, attention to revealing detail, relentless zest...Levy takes us on an inspiring personal journey brimming with passion, wisdom, generosity and nimble humor. We are treated to a celebration of the arts, an illuminating inside story, an ode to the city of New York and a meditation on leadership. Like any prized work of art, it both captivates and stimulates. I am telling everyone not to miss this tour de force." and#150;Winston Lord, Former US Ambassador to China and Chair Emeritus, International Rescue Committee
and#147;Essential reading for all who need to know how not to sail a ship into a storm.and#8221; and#150;Slipped Disc
When Reynold Levy became the new president of Lincoln Center in 2002, New York Magazine
described the situation he walked in to as and#147;a community in deep distress, riven by conflict.and#8221; Ideas for the redevelopment of Lincoln Centerand#8217;s artistic facilities and public spaces required spending more than $1.2 billion, but there was no clear pathway for how to raise that kind of unprecedented sum. The individual resident organizations that were the key constituents of Lincoln Centerand#151;the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the Juilliard School, and eight othersand#151;could not agree on a common capital plan or fundraising course of action. Instead, intramural rivalries and disputes filled the vacuum.
Besides, some of those organizations had daunting problems of their own. Levy tells the inside story of the demise of the New York City Opera, the Metropolitan Operaand#8217;s need to use as collateral its iconic Chagall tapestries in the face of mounting operating losses, and the New York Philharmonicand#8217;s dalliance with Carnegie Hall.
Yet despite these and other challenges, Levy and the extraordinary civic leaders at his side were able to shape a consensus for the physical modernization of the sixteen-acre campus and raise the money necessary to maintain Lincoln Center as the countryand#8217;s most vibrant performing arts destination. By the time he left, Lincoln Center had prepared itself fully for the next generation of artists and audiences.
They Told Me Not to Take That Job is more than a memoir of life at the heart of one of the worldand#8217;s most prominent cultural institutions. It is also a case study of leadership and management in action. How Levy and his colleagues triumphantly steered Lincoln Centerand#151;through perhaps the most tumultuous decade of its history to a startling transformationand#151;is fully captured in his riveting account.
About the Author
was the President of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts from March 1, 2002 to January 1, 2014.
Levyand#8217;s leadership at Lincoln Center continued a distinguished career of public service. He has been President of the International Rescue Committee, the senior officer of ATandT in charge of government relations, President of the ATandT Foundation, Executive Director of the 92nd Street Y, and Staff Director of the Task Force on the New York City Fiscal Crisis. Senior Lecturer at The Harvard Business School. He has also taught law, political science and nonprofit administration at Columbia and New York Universities and at the City University of New York.