Royal Conservatory Chancellor Michael M. Koerner has dedicated his life to supporting the arts. On January 10, 2019, the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) recognized the depth of his commitment by presenting him with the Angel Award at its 2019 Congress in New York.
ISPA presents the Angel Award annually to individuals or organizations that have made significant and enduring contributions to the performing arts, whether as leaders, advocates, innovators, or philanthropists. Past recipients include Jacqueline Desmarais, Dr. James Fleck, and The W. Garfield Weston Foundation.
Mr. Koerner has been an active supporter of The Royal Conservatory of Music for nearly 30 years. He is also a Trustee of the Art Gallery of Ontario; a director and treasurer of the Ontario Arts Foundation; and is the director and secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund. In prior years, Mr. Koerner served on the boards of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; the National Ballet of Canada and the National Ballet School; and the Bata Shoe Museum.
A strong believer the mission and national mandate of The Royal Conservatory, Mr. Koerner has made a profound contribution to the growth and revitalization of the organization. Together with his wife Sonja, he contributed extensively towards the construction of the RCM’s Toronto headquarters, the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning. At the heart of the building is breathtaking Koerner Hall, named in their honour.
Koerner Hall is beloved by artists and audiences for its architectural beauty and stunning acoustics. Bill Murray describes it as an “incredible venue” and internationally acclaimed baritone Christian Gerhaher believes it is quite simply “the best hall in the world.”
“The world's greatest artists – across a multitude of genres – clamour to perform and record in Koerner Hall,” said Mervon Mehta, the RCM’s Executive Director of Performing Arts. “The hall has a serenity and elegance that enables musicians to give us their finest work and they have done so night after night for 10 years,” adds Mehta. “Mr. and Mrs. Koerner have given Toronto and the world an enormous gift.”
Mr. and Mrs. Koerner have also donated the unique Michael & Sonja Koerner Early Instrument Collection, with a range of items dating back several centuries. The collection is on display in the Atrium of the TELUS Centre.
In 2017, Mr. and Mrs. Koerner were among three couples to make a joint gift of $20 million to The Royal Conservatory. This was largest single gift in the organization’s history.
The Angel Award is one of many honours Mr. Koerner has received in recognition of his cultural contributions. In 2006 he received the Edmund C. Bovey Award and in 2015, the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts. Mr. Koerner is also a recipient of honorary degrees from Queen’s University and the University of British Columbia and is a Member of the Order of Canada.
As an alumnus of The Royal Conservatory – he still plays the harpsichord regularly – Mr. Koerner has a deep understanding of the ability of music and the arts to transform both individuals and societies. In a 2015 interview with the Ottawa Citizen, he described how he and friends view the importance of philanthropy, in very straightforward terms.
“We all want to help institutions and we want to help our country.”