SHOWBIZ CHICAGO Podcast with MICHAEL DORF
Host Michael J. Roberts and entrepreneur Michael Dorf discuss the opening of City Winery in Chicago.
When Michael Dorf finds a new passion, he does more than enjoy it. He builds a business around it. His enjoyment of music led him to create the Knitting Factory in 1986, which went on to become New York’s consummate venue for independent music. In 1994, he pioneered live webcasting to have the first live music streams from a club anywhere in the world. His own spiritual journey moved him to create Tribeca Hebrew in 2004, an after-school program that invites children to explore their connections with history and develop their Jewish identity. As way to raise philanthropic funds for music education for underserved youth, he created an annual series of Tribute concerts at Carnegie Hall which have raised over $400,000 in net dollars for a those charitable programs in the last 6 years. In 2008, Michael’s passion for wine inspired him to create City Winery, Manhattan’s first fully operational winery complete with two wine bars, a cheese bar, restaurant and a performance space. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The New Yorker have all labeled him an “impresario” with New York Magazine even lauding him one of the “10 Most Influential New Yorkers.”
Since it opened, City Winery has become one of the preeminent concert venues in NYC, catering to a sophisticated clientele seeking a distinctive locale to enjoy world-class performers. Some of the artists who have played to packed houses have included Richard Thompson, David Byrne, Los Lobos, Patti Smith, Suzanne Vega, Philip Glass, Joan Osborne, Steve Earle and many more. The quality and frequency of sold out shows combined with the positive press garnered is an ongoing validation of Michael’s vision. City Winery is the place to experience quintessential New York culture against a unique backdrop, from participating in the winemaking process, sampling wines in one of two barrel rooms, indulging in some cheese and a favorite vintage, or fulfilling a lifelong dream of seeing your favorite musician perform in an intimate setting. City Winery realizes and focuses several of Michael Dorf’s passions, and represents a continuous drive to bring people together and deliver a unique experience of wine, culture and music.
At the age of 23, Michael Dorf founded the Knitting Factory in 1986 with his Bar Mitzvah savings and was the Cha
irman & CEO from inception to 2002. During this time period, he developed the company’s international brand with expansion into Europe and Asia through the production and sale of records, as well as creating branded festivals and tours. Under the umbrella of KnitMedia from 1995 to 2000, Dorf was recognized as a pioneer in producing music on the Internet, through a variety of strategic relationships with Apple Computer, Intel, MCI and Bell Atlantic. During his tenure at the Knitting Factory, he produced over 200 recordings with Knitting Factory Records, a television series, and eventually expanded and built the Knitting Factory in Los Angeles. In addition, Dorf has also produced over 100 festivals and stages in Europe with partnerships such as Montreux Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, Vienna Jazz Festival, and dozens of others. In 2002, he left his operating responsibilities to start other projects and has subsequently sold his equity position and resigned from the Knitting Factory Board.
Since that time, Dorf has became one of the most prolific independent promoters in New York and main presenter of music in “downtown” New York. In November 2005, Mr. Dorf was lauded by The New York Times as “one of New York’s most important music impresarios.” He has produced the opening celebration concert for 7 World Trade Center, the first new building on theWTC site. Michael Dorf Presents has produced hundreds of concerts including the Music Downtown Series, Music of Series at Carnegie Hall, The Annual New York Jewish Music & Heritage Festival, Jewzapalooza, the “Downtown Seder”, as well as several significant private corporate events. The successful series of tribute concerts at Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall includes the Music of Joni Mitchell, Music of Bob Dylan, Music of Bruce Springsteen, Music of Elton John, Neil Sedaka’s 50 years of Hits, The Music of R.E.M., and the The Music of the Who.
Michael Dorf has also gotten very involved in several philanthropic ventures including the creation of a Tribeca Hebrew, an after-school program in Lower Manhattan. He served as the founding Chairman of Tribeca Hebrew and developed the school to 150 children before it merged with JCP in 2009. He is additionally on the board of Jewish Week, American Symphony Orchestra, Storahtelling and Downtown Arts Development. Dorf is also widely known as the creator of the “Downtown Seder” which brings 25 artists, musicians, comedians, and political figures to each take a section of the classic Passover story and present to sold-out audiences over the past 10 years.
Michael is married with three children and lives in Tribeca, New York.