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NEA Chairman Gets Free Voice Lessons From Employee

June 8, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts acknowledged Friday that he receives free singing lessons from an employee. A spokesman said he intends to continue doing so.

″There would be no reason not to,″ said Jack Lichtenstein, the endowment’s public affairs director.

NEA Chairman John Frohnmayer, an amateur lyric baritone, said Alvin Knutsen, a special assistant with the agency, has provided between 12 and 15 lessons since Frohnmayer came to Washington in October. Frohnmayer said he does not pay for the sessions.

Frohnmayer said neither Knutsen nor Ann Colgrove, NEA’s director of policy, who provides piano accompaniment for the sessions, was coerced.

″We all have done it as friends,″ he said. Asked if he saw any impropriety in it, he replied, ″None whatsoever.″ The chairman said Knutsen, a former professional bass-baritone, volunteered to provide the lessons, which are given ″at the end of the day or around the lunch hour.″

He said the sessions are normally in preparation for some event such as an in-house program at the endowment or his recent appearance as a guest soloist with the Capitol Hill Choral Society.

Frohnmayer is an attorney from Portland, Ore. His official NEA biography says he has appeared in recital, oratorio, musical comedy and other musical productions in New York, Chicago, Palo Alto, Calif., and Oregon.

Knutsen declined to comment on the instruction he provides his boss.

″All the inquiries are being handled by the press office upstairs,″ he said. ″I am sorry I can’t help you.″

The first account of the lessons appeared in The Washington Times on Thursday.

Knutsen, who has a doctorate in vocal music and opera, has been with NEA for about two years.

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