Kamloops Symphony Orchestra introduced its new executive director at St. Andrews on the Square on Monday.
Daniel Mills, a 30-year-old from Calgary with a background in business and music, will fill the shoes of outgoing executive director Kathy Humphreys, who will retire at the end of the month after almost three decades at the helm.
Fourteen people were interviewed and Mills was chosen not only for his experience, but also for his chemistry with music director Dina Gilbert and his understanding of the role.
“His background, but also he and our music director — we feel it’s a perfect match,” Kamloops Symphony Society president Miki Andrejevic said. “They’re almost the same age, younger people. They have the same philosophies. Also, I’ve been in this business 35 years and when Daniel told me that, actually, executive director makes things happen and music director is somebody who is on stage — he understands the role. It’s not who is going to be in the public, it is actually working together — executive director makes things happen and music director is the dream.”
Mills worked in fundraising for the Calgary Arts Commons prior to working in operations for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and in marketing and the box office for Honens Piano Competition. Mills is also a freelance classical trumpet player, having performed with Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Red Deer Symphony and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. He first started playing trumpet at age 10 and called it a part of his life. Mills recently graduated with a master’s of business administration and said the job opening brought him to Kamloops.
Mills wasn’t the only applicant from outside of the province. Andrejevic told KTW applications were received from people in the United States and Vietnam.
“I thought it was exact right moment for me to jump into this sort of role and, thankfully, I put my name forward and I was chosen,” Mills said, adding he is looking forward to getting to know the area and is excited about the climate.
As an amateur triathlete and runner, he said he is going to look at ways in which the active outdoors and arts can be “melded together.”
Asked about specific plans coming into the role, he said he and the KSO are “very excited” about the possibility of a performing-arts centre. Coming from Calgary and growing up in the city that boasts the Arts Commons — one of the largest performing-arts venues in the country — Mills said he understands the importance of such a venue. Getting it built in Calgary, he said, included a community-driven society.
Kamloops city council will hear about a similar idea this Tuesday with respect to the proposed performing-arts centre downtown.
Asked of the significance of such a facility in Calgary, Mills said: “What it really does is have a consolidated location for all the arts. Even people not from the city, they come and go, ‘Oh, there is a dedicated space for the arts and it’s a geographic place.’ The trick is making sure the place is accessible for everyone, not just considered for the elite.”
Mills said having that dedicated space allows for cross-promotion of different kinds of arts and options for community events.
Mills understands, he has big shoes to fill.
Andrejevic said after 29 years, Humphreys will be missed.
“The fact is, she has been very instrumental for a long time in what has been accomplished thus far,” he said. “She is the one who brought the orchestra to this stage. Right now, she is retiring and it is time for somebody new to take over. But it is always exciting and I think a challenging time, as well. We are really hoping for a smooth transition.”
Humphreys will help ease that transition, working with Mills over the next few weeks before she officially retires. Humphreys had no role in the hiring process and said she first met Mill about 10 minutes prior to Monday’s announcement. “It’s bittersweet, obviously,” Humphreys said. “I’m excited to see a new executive director who has got some music, quite a bit of background in music, for sure, and is ready to take it on and is enthusiastic and has a tonne of energy. I can see that the work I did and [former music director] Bruce Dunn did is going to be carried on by the next generation of music directors and administrators and they’re going to do a great job, I’m sure.”
Asked how an injection of youth will impact KSO, Mills said it will be a challenge balancing institutional knowledge with new ideas.
“I think Dina has already experienced that,” he said. “Her and I talking, I think we have a lot of the same ideas in terms of some directions we can go. Hopefully, I can support her on the administrative side to make those happen. It is very exciting, I did my first degree in Montreal. Though I had never met her before, we have a lot of the same friends from the Montreal music community. I think we’re on the same wave length.”
Humphreys, meanwhile, won’t be going far. In addition to a seat in the KSO audience, she plans to stay in Kamloops and will volunteer within the arts community. Asked if she will be involved in the performing-arts centre society, she said “maybe” in a very high pitch. She has been a vocal supporter in the past.
“I’m going to be involved in some volunteer capacity, some other things,” she said. “So that’s exciting for me. I’m really looking forward to that and to be able to do it justice. Because, when you’re working full time and fully immersed in an arts organization, you don’t have a lot of spare time. So you get extra projects to work on, but you’re trying desperately to balance all the things that need to get done. I’m going to be able to focus on another project in my retirement, so that’s good.”
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