Reynold Levy, fresh from a five-year term as president of the International Rescue Committee, didn’t become the obvious candidate to be president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts until his final interview with its search committee. Someone asked him what unique qualities and experience he would bring to the job. “Well, from what I’ve seen so far,” he said, “you could use a U.N. peacekeeping force.”

The committee members were struck by his understatement. Lincoln Center is unique among cultural organizations. It is not a singular institution, but a confederation of twelve artistic organizations, including the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Julliard School, the School of American ...

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