In 2018, VSA Michigan Board Chair and long-time director, Lora Frankel decided to check in on an old friend and colleague, Michael Gielniak. Dr. Gielniak was recovering from an attempted robbery of his home that left him near death. The incident had a profound impact on his life, as he learned first hand what it means to live with a disability. The meeting was inspirational, resulting in Dr. Gielniak joining the VSA Michigan Board. The following year was one of great change for VSA Michigan. Like many non-profit organizations, funding for programs and staff was a challenge. In January of 2019 the Executive Director resigned, and the Kennedy Center announced they would start charging a hefty royalty fee to use the VSA name. Frankel and Gielniak volunteered to manage operations and worked tirelessly to position the organization for the future. On October 1, 2019, Dr. Gielniak was named Executive Director, and the newly named organization, Michigan Arts Access, was born. With a keen focus on growing core programming and building a strong network of affiliates in regions around the state, Frankel and Gielniak laid a strong foundation for the future.
Our new director is not new to the arts community. Dr. Gielniak started his career as a musician, conductor and educator. A native of Detroit, he has studied in Chicago, New York, Munich and Salzburg with such greats as Leonard Bernstein, Sergiu Celibidache and Nicholas Harnoncourt. He performed with jazz and classical ensembles throughout the United States and Europe on trombone, euphonium and guitar, and as conductor.
As an arts educator, Dr. Gielniak is both a Fulbright Scholar and an Emmy Award winner. He has collaborated with Detroit Public Television, Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Art Education Association, Michigan School Vocal Music Association, National Arts Education Association, Artserve and he was a board member of the Warren Symphony and the Michigan Music Educators Association. He also served as evaluator for a variety of VSA Michigan programs, and as a grant reviewer for Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and U.S. Department of Education.
Dr. Gielniak also believes that education technology can act as the great equalizer across the economic, social, cultural and disability divides. In his role as Chief Operating Officer for the One-to-One Institute he worked with school districts and states across the country, and with countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East in an effort to redefine learning around systems of continuous improvement that focus on student agency and autonomy. In 2009 Dr. Gielniak led the research team for the groundbreaking study of the academic and financial effects of education technology called Project RED. He is a co-author of the book, The Technology Factor, Nine Keys to Student Achievement and Cost Effectiveness, which has become the most widely used resource globally for the proper implementation of 1:1 technology in schools. Dr. Gielniak is also the co-author of two other books: Revolutionizing Education through Technology, and Technology for Learning: A Guidebook for Change.
Dr. Gielniak has earned degrees in elementary and secondary instruction, Education Leadership, and his doctoral work was in the cognitive neurosciences domain. Although his career has taken him across the globe, his greatest priority and love is for his family. He is incredibly proud of the strong, intelligent and compassionate women his two daughters have become. Julia, 21, is graduating from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama with a degree is Psychology, and Sophia (18) is valedictorian at Utica High School and will be attending St. Francis College, in Brooklyn, New York in the fall.