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Chancellor Emeritus James Moeser to retire from Carolina Performing Arts

James and Susan Moeser stand outside of Carolina Performing Arts' Memorial Hall. Photo courtesy of University Development.

Chancellor Emeritus James Moeser, the interim executive and artistic director at Carolina Performing Arts, will retire on Wednesday. 

Moeser began the role in 2019 and previously served in other leadership positions during his time at UNC, including chancellor from 2000 to 2008 and interim director of the Institute for Arts and Humanities.

CPA announced on June 17 that it received a $3 million gift from an anonymous donor in honor of James and Susan Moeser, the largest ever one-time contribution from an individual or family to CPA.

Carolina Performing Arts

During Moeser's time as chancellor, Carolina Performing Arts was founded to fill the newly renovated Memorial Hall. Moeser directed the national search for CPA’s first executive director, Emil Kang. 

In addition to live performances, CPA has commissioned 50 pieces from around the world since its founding in 2005.

CPA remains closely aligned with UNC's academic mission, Moeser said. For example, a 2013 production of Igor Stravinsky’s "The Rite of Spring" was tied to 200 courses offered at the University that academic year.

Moeser, a classically trained organist, said he was especially committed to bringing the orchestras of the world to Chapel Hill. 

Amy Russell, director of programming at Carolina Performing Arts, said working with Moeser was one of the great joys of her career. 

“He leads with his heart and his intellect,” she said. 

Donation and looking ahead

Moeser said CPA will continue to find ways to connect virtually to include a wider audience. 

Grace Sword, a senior dramatic art and English and comparative literature double major, said COVID-19 has highlighted the inaccessibility of the arts. 

“This pandemic has made people realize that the arts does not have to be this expensive elaborate thing,” she said. 

In his retirement, Moeser will continue to live in Chapel Hill with his wife Susan Moeser. He said he and his wife are incredibly humbled by the $3 million gift, which comes at a critical time — especially as the performing arts community overcomes the pandemic. 

The funding will assist CPA's incoming executive and artistic director, Alison Friedman, in sustaining and furthering local and global relationships with artists and ensuring that CPA remains accessible to the community. 

Russell said CPA is grateful for Moeser’s impact on the performing arts community. 

“He guides and encourages us as we embark on ambitious artistic projects, and as we navigate living and working in our nation’s landscape marred by COVID and racial trauma,” she said. “He has joined our chorus and amplified our voices, and we will be forever grateful.”

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