Mark C. Hanson (c) Oliver Theil
Mark C. Hanson joined the San Francisco Symphony as Executive Director on September 1, 2017. Hanson has served as Executive Director & CEO of the Houston Symphony’s since 2010, during which time the orchestra appointed Colombian-born, Vienna-trained conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada as its Music Director; in March 2017 Orozco-Estrada’s contract was extended through the 2021–22 season. Early in his tenure, Hanson and the Houston Symphony Board embarked on an ambitious and successful five-year plan to expand the Symphony’s audience and donor bases through expanded community partnerships and performances, new concert formats and multi-media projects, and increased marketing and visibility. As a result of that plan, the Houston Symphony—which now has an annual operating budget of $34 million—saw annual contributed income more than double, earned revenue grow by 20%, attendance increase from 286,789 to 339,063 people, and achieved six consecutive balanced budgets.
Hanson led the Houston Symphony in breaking down barriers and deepening connections with audiences of all ages through initiatives including the long-standing “Sound + Vision” series, which adds multimedia elements to classical subscription concerts to further enhance the concert-going experience; the formation of three Diversity Leadership Councils which have established important community relationships and better equipped the institution to become more relevant and accessible; the launch of Onstage Insights with Andrés introductions and Behind the Scenes with Andrés videos in which the music director provides brief commentary and anecdotes about the music during select concerts; a two season “Musically Speaking” series at Rice University’s Stude Concert Hall that provided audiences an opportunity to go behind the score and learn about the historical and contextual elements of the music being performed; and the “On the Music” podcast series led by the Symphony’s Musical Ambassador Carlos Andrés Botero. Recently, the Houston Symphony forged a multi-year recording partnership with Dutch recording label PENTATONE, released a Naxos recording of Berg‘s opera Wozzeck, and expanded its local concert broadcast schedule on Houston Public Media’s News 88.7 and Classical 91.7FM.
A hallmark initiative of Hanson’s tenure in Houston is the Community-Embedded Musicians program, designed to embed musicians deep within the community and to represent and serve the diverse population of Greater Houston. Through this innovative program, the Houston Symphony hired four string players who are embedded in Houston schools, neighborhoods and health-care settings as teaching artists and performers, but who also perform on stage with members of the Houston Symphony in at least 40 concerts each year.
Prior to joining the Houston Symphony, Mark Hanson served as President and Executive Director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) from 2004–1010. During that time the orchestra appointed Edo de Waart as music director and Marvin Hamlisch as principal pops conductor; undertook major artistic projects such as Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand” and Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle with sets designed by Dale Chihuly; and released a Naxos recording of Roberto Sierra’s Missa Latina. During Hanson’s tenure, the MSO negotiated two four-year orchestra contracts, doubled the number of full-orchestra performances outside of its primary hall, increased average sold capacity by 12%, and more than doubled annual contributed income from individuals, foundations and corporations.
Hanson previously held positions as Executive Director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (2001–2003) and Rockford Symphony Orchestra (1998–2000). A trained cellist who studied at the Eastman School of Music for two years, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and participated in the League of American Orchestras’ Orchestra Management Fellowship Program, holding posts at the New York Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, and Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. He and his wife, Christina, are parents to three sons.
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