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The Florida Orchestra announces new CEO

Bill DeYoung



The Florida Orchestra. Photo provided.

Mark Cantrell, currently the CEO of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, has been named the new President and CEO of the Florida Orchestra, effective Feb. 14.

Cantrell succeeds Michael Pastreich, who left the organization last July after 11 years. “I thought it was important that I step out while the job is still a lot of fun,” Patreich told the Tampa Bay Times at the time. He had been extensively involved in planning the Florida Orchestra’s 51st season, which will end in May.

The 52st season – with Cantrell at the helm – begins in September.

Mark Cantrell

“I am excited and thrilled to join such a great organization,” Cantrell said in a prepared statement. “The Florida Orchestra has a meaningful impact on a great community, clearly demonstrating the transformative power of music. I look forward to working with such a talented team of musicians, staff and board members to create a truly American orchestra committed to enriching the lives of all who live in our community, and helping to make the Tampa Bay area a cultural leader in our nation.”

He’ll work with music director and principal conductor Michael Francis, who recently renewed his TFO contract through the 2023-24 season. “We share the same vision,” Francis said. “Mark is passionate about ‘The Why’ of what we do as an orchestra, how we use the power of music to transform a community, to connect lives, and to communicate through our art form. Together, with our musicians, boards and staff, we aim to re-imagine the American orchestra for the 21st century, based not just on outstanding concerts, but on what the community of Tampa Bay needs to succeed and thrive. I am personally very excited to work closely alongside him, and have full confidence that he is the right person at the right time for this orchestra.”

The Florida Orchestra was created by the merger of the St. Petersburg Symphony and the Tampa Philharmonic, under the baton of Irwin Hoffman, who remained as conductor through 1987.

Among Pastreich’s accomplishments: Pulling the orchestra out of a financial slump, by lowering ticket prices, increasing its community involvement; under his leadership, its endowments grew from $8 million to $21 million.

“Great leaders,” Cantrell said, “always strive to foster an environment of possibility. I have never feared to be bold, take risks or dream.”

Indeed, his own career path has been marked by bold risk-taking. In the 1990s, he led a team of 16 sled dogs in 300-mile races in New England. In 2006, Cantrell followed his boyhood dream and became an airline pilot for several years.

Cantrell, who’s also a musician, previously was executive director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, personnel manager for the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, and a bass trombonist for the Boston Pops, Boston Ballet, and Boston Lyric Opera, among others. He also was an adjunct professor of music at Boston University and University of Massachusetts.

He is credited with growing the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s audience substantially, and erasing its debt.

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