Point of View

The Sanford and Dolores Ziff Classical Music and Dance Series
December 13, 2009, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Masterworks Series

The December 5th performance of the Batsheva Dance Ensemble marks the opening of the John S. and James L. Knight Masterworks Season, which represents the Center’s first full offering of classical music and dance programming: the four-performance Sanford and Dolores Ziff Classical Music Series and the three-part Sanford and Dolores Ziff Dance Series.

Sanford and Dolores Ziff are generously supporting Masterworks with a $500,000 pledge, sponsoring the series over the next five years. With this pledge, they join the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Classical Encore Circle, a dedicated group of patrons who are committed to assuring that classical music and dance are part of the Miami community now and for years to come. When asked about their generous contribution, Dr. Ziff stated, “It is a great pleasure to watch audiences enjoy the world’s most renowned classical music artists in one of the most spectacular concert halls in the United States. I am proud to support the Adrienne Arsht Center as it enters a new era of presenting classical music and am pleased to know that our community will be able to continue enjoying this transformational art form”.

Frequent visitors to the Adrienne Arsht Center may recognize Dr. Ziff and his wife Dolores as fixtures in our halls.  Dr. Ziff in his signature white suit and Dolores dressed in the latest fashion finery; they are always present with a smile and a kind word for everyone they meet.

Although their $10 million gift to name the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House was their largest single gift to a Miami-Dade cultural organization, Dr. and Mrs. Ziff are long-time supporters of the performing arts and culture in South Florida. The visual arts have also benefitted from the Ziffs’ involvement: the Miami Art Museum, received the donation of a Jean Dubuffet painting; the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami named a wing in their honor; the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami; the Bass Museum of Art; the Viscaya Foundation; and the Art Museum at Florida International University.

Dr. Ziff served the Miami community for more than 50 years as an optometrist and Founder, Chairman and CEO of Sunglass Hut International.  He was born in Akron, Ohio and graduated from the Illinois School of Optometry in Chicago and moved to Miami in the mid-1940s, where he established his practice.  He opened offices in Dadeland Mall and made a reputation for himself as a contact lens specialist, conducting clinical research and lecturing all over the world.  In 1971, he created Sunglass Hut, which became a successful international business enterprise.


Photo from the Adrienne Arsht Center Archives

Sunglass Hut was sold in the early 1990s and Dr. Ziff devoted his energy and financial resources to supporting a wide range of social service, education, cultural, and religious activities.  Dr. and Mrs. Ziff are passionately committed to improving the quality of life in the community. 

Dolores shares her husband’s zest for life and has enjoyed an eclectic range of experiences.  Her interests include the fine and decorative arts, theater, culinary invention, style and fashion, and even agriculture.  Mrs. Ziff was an actress with the British Broadcasting Company and was in the first James Bond film Dr. No, subsequently appearing in two additional Bond films.  She worked with famed British director Peter Brook, casting his film of William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies, for which Brook received an Oscar nomination.  During that period she lived in Jamaica, and then became a Morgan horse breeder on a large working farm in Vermont, and later owner and grower of prime apple tree orchards in North Carolina.

Mrs. Ziff has distinguished herself as an activist and volunteer leader for a wide range of community agencies and civic and political organizations, including the Camillus House Board, the Citizens’ Board, the Smokey Mountain Railway Board and Linda Ray Children’s Center, where both she and Dr. Ziff served as Trustees.  Mrs. Ziff was also a member of the International Board for the Bolshoi Ballet, FIU’s Tower Society and Film Advisory Board, and the Vizcayans.

Dr. Ziff continues to lend his professional expertise to several educational and not-for-profit institutions, among them, the School of Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Miami, St. Thomas University, and Nova Southeastern University, where he served as a guest lecturer.  He also participated on the “Distinguished Professors Lecture Series” at Johnson and Wales University, designed to provide Chefs in Training with insight into business and entrepreneurship.

The Sanford and Dolores Ziff Classical Music Series will present four diverse works by the highly regarded Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Pinchas Zukerman, on December 16; a solo recital of audience favorites by four-time Emmy Award and 15-time Grammy Award-winning violinist Itzhak Perlman on January 12; the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of the internationally recognized American conductor Leonard Slatkin, on February 14; and outstanding pianist Lang Lang accompanied by the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra,  on March 29, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. The four-part series will take place entirely in one of the most acoustically superb concert halls in the world – the Center’s John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall.


Photo from the Founding Donors Dinner; Photo by Kelly Gavin.


The Sanford and Dolores Ziff Dance Series will present multiple performances by three outstanding companies: Batsheva Ensemble on December 5 and 6; The Joffrey Ballet on March 26 and 27; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on May 20 – 23.

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