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NSO’s Mark Blakeman: Heading West, Young Man

There was good and bad news in the release the Nashville Symphony Orchestra sent out on Thursday. The good news is that the symphony’s veteran chief operating officer, Mark Blakeman, will soon become captain of his own ship, taking over as president of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra (apparently, the weather just wasn’t hot enough for Blakeman here in Tennessee). The bad news is that Nashville will be losing one of its finest arts administrators.

Here’s the release from the NSO:

blakemanNASHVILLE (Aug. 21) – The Nashville Symphony announced today that chief operating officer Mark Blakeman has been named president & CEO of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. He will assume the post in early November. The TSO is the longest continuously performing professional arts organization in Arizona, where it impacts more than 120,000 lives each year.

During his 15-year tenure with the Nashville Symphony, Blakeman has played an important role in nearly all of the major accomplishments of the organization. In that time, the organization has experienced unprecedented growth – from 55 full-time musicians in 1999 to today’s 80-plus players – and now boasts a discography of more than 24 commercially available recordings, which have earned a total of 14 Grammy nominations and seven Grammy Awards. Blakeman was involved in the planning and construction of Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and helped oversee the $40 million reconstruction of the Schermerhorn following the Nashville flood of 2010.

“During his tenure, Mark has been promoted through the ranks at every phase of his career here; he has been an incredible asset to the Nashville Symphony,” said Symphony president & CEO Alan Valentine. “Since stepping into the position of COO last fall, Mark has created a renewed focus on performance metrics and accountability at the Nashville Symphony, and in the process, he has helped the organization reach record-breaking ticket sales, strengthen expense management and dramatically improve financial results from operations.

“Though we will miss him terribly, we have a rock-solid management team and staff in place – thanks in large part to Mark’s extraordinary work – so I am confident that we won’t miss a beat.  I look forward to calling him my peer as he makes his move to Tucson and to seeing the many great things he will accomplish there.”

The Nashville Symphony will undertake a national search for Blakeman’s replacement. “The opportunity to live in Tucson and serve the Tucson Symphony Orchestra is a great honor,” Blakeman said. “The TSO is a dynamic, highly accomplished orchestra, and the city of Tucson has a really wonderful energy.

“My 15 years with the Nashville Symphony have been incredible,” Blakeman continued. “I can think of few arts organizations across the country that could offer the same breadth of experience and exciting opportunities. Despite facing some significant challenges over the last few years, the Nashville Symphony is now well positioned for success in the future, so I feel the timing of my departure could not be better. The orchestra’s success has been built by a community of people devoted to the organization and the city. I want to thank the amazing staff, talented musicians, devoted Board, volunteers, ticket buyers and donors who have made the Nashville Symphony such a wonderful place for me to work.”

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