Mark Kent is passionate about the arts.
For the past 25 years, the Florida native has guided nationally-recognized arts organizations in West Palm Beach and, more recently Atlanta. This spring he is bringing his expertise back to South Florida.
Following a nationwide search, Kent was recently named executive director of the 200-voice Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida.
Kent had been serving as the vice president of education and community engagement when he saw the notice for the position.
“I thought it would be a great way to take what I have been doing and bring it back home,” he recalled.
Kent, 50, who spent his early years in Homestead and later Plant City, completed his education at Florida State University before joining the staff of the newly organized Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, where he helped open the popular venue.
He then moved to Atlanta, where he also held key positions with the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, Children’s Museum of Atlanta and Hands On Atlanta.
Kent knew he made the right decision early in the interview process, noting “sometimes a wheel falls off, but the absolute opposite happened,” he said.
As he learned about the history and growth of the chorus, he realized “it was obvious people were passionate and making smart decisions.”
“It’s a very authentic group. As I’ve met every single person, I’m struck by the authenticity and the sincerity with which they approach the art form….also, the responsibility of fulfilling the mission of using music to touch people. (The chorus) is reaching audiences with messages of hope and joy and love.”
Kent credits maestro Gordon Roberts and the chorus board for promoting this mission.
One of Kent’s first challenges will be to deal with the chorus’ enormous popularity. Most of the ensemble’s regular concerts at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale sell out weeks before the performances, frustrating many music lovers who cannot get tickets.
“Isn’t that a great problem to have?” he asked, pointing out that most classical music organizations struggle to draw audiences and sell tickets.
He anticipates seeking opportunities to perform in additional venues and partnerships with other groups, like the very successful series with the Symphony of the Americas at the Broward Center. The chorus also added a performance this spring at the 1100 seat Bailey Hall on the campus of Broward College in Davie.
“It does require a balancing act,” Kent said, “as we reach out to others, but not walk away from the people who have made us who we are today. As the gay community becomes closer and closer to mainstream, it gives us an opportunity to create greater dialogue.”
South Florida is a progressive community and Kent believes many new opportunities still exist to build relationships and reach even more new audiences.
When he’s not working, Kent delves into another art, describing himself as a “very bad amateur armchair artist” who likes to draw and paint as a welcome diversion from the stresses of running a large organization.
He recently moved with his partner of 15 years to Oakland Park, a convenient 5-minute commute to the chorus’ new offices in the Pride Center in Wilton Manors.
To learn more about the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida and purchase tickets to upcoming performances, go to GMCSF.org.