It’s been said, composers often make good visionary arts leaders. It requires an eternal optimism and the tenacity to make music against all odds, including public apathy and a salary that looks more like tip jar at your local coffee shop.
The same could be said for Christopher Deacon, a composer who made his start in arts administration in Toronto with Arraymusic in 1982.
Thirty-six years later, and one year short of his 60th birthday, Deacon has now officially made it to the top of the hill.
Announced yesterday at a press conference in Ottawa, Deacon was officially named President And CEO of the National Arts Centre (NAC), Canada largest publically funded arts presenter.
“The NAC is a place of dreams for artists and producers in Canada. It is the place where many do their best work, a destination that says they have ‘arrived’. Or the launching pad for their future artistic path,” Deacon said in a press release statement.
“I love what the NAC means to Canadians and I have a passion for what it could become in the next chapter of its development.”
Deacon appointment succeeds Peter Herrndorf, who closed an 18-year marathon as head of Ottawa’s crown concert hall on June 2, 2018.
The appointment marks the first time in the NAC history that they have promoted as president and CEO from within, and the move is telling. According to recruiting expert Dennis Carey, when an organization selects a number-two person to succeed the number-one executive, it suggests a happy and satisfied board that intends on staying the course.
Starting as a Tour Manager in 1987, Deacon worked his way up through the National Arts Centre Orchestra, eventually becoming Orchestra Manager in 1989, then becoming Managing Director in 1996.
It’s looking at Deacon’s long list of accomplishments that the appointment makes the most sense.
He was instrumental in landing Pinchas Zukerman in 1998 as the NACO’s Music Director, and Alexander Shelley after him.
He coordinating historic tours to China, the U.S., Mexico, Israel, Italy, Germany, France, and the UK, and was the chair of the steering committee overseeing the NAC’s $225.4M Architectural and Production Renewal Project
He helped push initiatives for fellow composers such as the NAC Composer Program, as well as funding for the creation of 25 new commissions. Most recently, he was a force behind Life Reflected, a celebrating four Canadian women: Roberta Bondar, Rita Joe, Alice Munro, and Amanda Todd.
Looking ahead, Deacon plans to develop the $25-million New Creations Fund, and follow through with the NAC’s new Indigenous theatre department which is slated to open in 2019.
On a wider view, Deacon will continue to align the organization with the NAC’s national mandate, as well as expanding efforts towards digital outreach.