Mark Cantrell joined The Florida Orchestra as President and CEO in February 2019. Prior to moving here, the trombonist had been CEO of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and executive director of the the Boston Philharmonic. Cantrell's focus for TFO - in the pre- and post-COVID-19 worlds - is on making classical music accessible, affordable and imminently desirable for every single member of the community. “We can go in and play concerts anywhere, but are we really having an impact on the community?" he said in his first Catalyst interview, in early 2019. "Are we really changing lives? Are we really making it a better place to live by doing that? Yeah, a little bit. But there’s a whole lot more we can do."
Years in St. Pete
Organizations involved in
In our community, I’m not involved in anything other than the Florida Orchestra at this point. But I am nationally involved with the Bolz Center, which is an MBA program at the University of Wisconsin. I serve on the board there, as well as the Center for Medical Musical Research at the University of Wiconsin.
What gets you out of bed every day?
The ability to go into our community and make a difference, and positively influence people’s lives through the transformative power of music. I love being able to help people, and make their lives special in a meaningful way that most people wouldn’t think or understand.
Why St. Pete?
Honestly, I believe St. Pete has the ability to become one of the arts capitols of the world. All the pieces are here in the entire Tampa Bay area. We have great culture, we have a great dining scene, we have great tourism, and we have a great mix of people, from wealthy people to non-wealthy people, to people from all walks of life. And it’s a very accepting community that is exceptional for the growth of the arts.
What is one habit that you keep?
I like to learn something – something big, major and new – every year. And this goes back maybe 30 years, from when I first learned to do wilderness canoe trips, to my stint doing long-distance sled dog racing, to learning to become a commercial airline pilot. To furniture building. So every year i like to find something new that I can learn, that’s beyond what I already know.
Who are some people that influence you?
My father was a big influence for me. Historical people such as Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and then of course many musicians such as Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich, and Prokofiev, all very influential. These are all visionary people who dared to dream, and sometimes go in the face of what society thought was right. And shared their vision and their passion for what the world could be.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
Thirty-one years ago my father passed away at the far too young age of 54 years old. And the piece of advice he gave me was: Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. Go forward and do what you believe in. Be bold and take big risks, and move forward and never look back.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
Boy, that’s a loaded question. Three years ago I wish I would’ve known that COVID was coming down the pipe, or that a pandemic was something that any of us would have even considered. That being said, it’s not all bad: There’s a lot of opportunity and chance for growth that can come out of what we’ve seen. And three years ago, I would’ve liked to have had even more of a growth mindset in taking care of our community.
Building a world-class arts organization right here in St. Pete and helping be a partner in the entire Tampa Bay area that will turn into, hopefully, the Cultural Center of the world. Much like Paris was in the late 1800s, or London was back in the 1700s. It really is to have the St. Petersburg area become the focus of what art can be in our world, as we go forward.