May 8, 2023 - News

Meet the Colorado Symphony's new CEO, Mark Cantrell

Photo illustration of Mark Cantrell in the center of a Polaroid photo under a blue spotlight.

Mark Cantrell. Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Courtesy of the Colorado Symphony

The Colorado Symphony is under the baton of a new leader.

Driving the news: Monday marks Mark Cantrell's first day as CEO, following the board's announcement of his appointment in late February.

  • The former chief executive of both the Florida and Wisconsin orchestras brings more than a dozen years of leadership to the Centennial State.

Why it matters: Cantrell's appointment ushers in a new era for the symphony as it prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary this year.

  • As chief executive, one of his primary responsibilities will be to redefine what an orchestra can be in the 21st century by attracting new audiences and experimenting with the business model.

What they're saying: Denver has the opportunity to become a major arts and culture hub for the West β€” and the symphony can help it get there, Cantrell tells Axios Denver.

  • "There's huge growth happening here and (a) tremendous amount of potential with this orchestra to build," he says. "This is a dream come true."

We recently caught up with Cantrell to get to know him better:

πŸ“ Hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona (though he was born in Kansas).

β˜• Morning must: Coffee. "All those years in the pit playing opera and ballet, I would drink coffee at night and it doesn't affect my sleeping at all. … I am absolutely a coffee guy."

🎣 Hobbies: Hiking, camping, biking and fishing. "I am an absolute nut of a fly fisherman. I tell people that's the only reason I work, so that I can support my fishing habit."

  • Of note: In the '90s, he led a team of 16 dogs in 300-mile races in New England (!) and in the early 2000s followed his "lifelong dream" of becoming an airline pilot.

🎺 Instruments he plays: Bass trombone and piano "very poorly … and just for my own enjoyment. I would never torture anybody by playing it."

🎼 Favorite composers: Gustav Mahler, Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Ludwig van Beethoven "of course," and Johannes Brahms.

πŸ“š Recent reads: "Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West" by Hampton Sides and "Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869" by Stephen E. Ambrose.

  • "I'm a voracious reader. I always have at least two or three books going."

🀝 The purpose of orchestras: "We are here to build community. We are here to make this a better place."


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