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Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performs with Gainesville native Robert Cantrell
Gainesville native Robert Cantrell will perform June 16 with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at The Arts Council Smithgall Arts Center in downtown Gainesville.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert
What: Featuring Gainesville native Robert Cantrell as part of The Arts Council Signature Series
When: 8 p.m. June 16, gates open at 6 p.m.
Where: The Arts Council Smithgall Arts Center, 331 Spring St. SE, Gainesville; will move to indoor location in case of rain
Cost: $35 adults, $32 seniors, $28 students
More info:

Robert Cantrell sang in the Crimson Chorus during all of his four years at Gainesville High School. But he never planned on being an opera singer.

“I planned on being a music teacher,” he said. “I had four job offers when I graduated from Knoxville (College in Tennessee), but I always felt like there was something more.”

On June 16, the Washington National Opera bass-baritone will sing for his hometown crowd during an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert at The Arts Council Smithgall Arts Center.

It will be his first time collaborating with the orchestra, which is in its 41st year of playing for Gainesville.

“I’m looking forward to making my debut with the Atlanta Symphony; I just hope it’s not too hot,” he said laughing.

Singing has always been a part of his life.

“My dad and my uncle were both choir directors,” Cantrell said. “My godfather was the organist. My dad used to have my brothers and me sing at church. I always had music around me.”

Cantrell earned a master’s degree in music at the Peabody Conservatory. While there, one of his teachers told him he should audition for the Baltimore Opera.

“I’d never even been to an opera at that point,” Cantrell said.

Throughout his five years at Peabody, he sang 20 small roles.

On a whim, Cantrell decided to audition for the Washington National Opera, one of the bigger companies in the area. That decision paid off when he earned his first spot in a chorus in 1992.

Cantrell landed his first role in 1999, singing alongside Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo in “Le Cid,” which aired on PBS.

Since that time, Cantrell has sung countless roles, small and big, alongside stars like Renee Fleming. He’s also performed at venues including Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera.

Cantrell said what sets him apart from other musicians is how effectively he’s able to communicate music.

“I love the way people react to music,” he said. “It helps release people from whenever and wherever they are.”

While Cantrell has a lot to be proud of, he said he couldn’t have done it on his own.

“I never would have been able to do all this without my family,” he said. “My mom and dad have always been so supportive.”

His support system goes beyond his immediate family, though. Cantrell remembers many in his climb to success, including his former French teacher, Myrtle Figueras, who helped with his French operas.

Cantrell also said he appreciates the positive influences from members of St. John’s Baptist Church of Gainesville, so much so that he held a benefit concert to raise money for their new church building in 2012.

Because so many have given to him, Cantrell said he loves giving back as a teacher at the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he’s been since 1995.

“I’ve enjoyed giving back, nurturing and guiding,” he said.

In addition to his concert with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Cantrell will perform at local churches including Gainesville First United Methodist Church on July 23, First Baptist Church on Green Street on July 30 and Lakewood Baptist Church on Aug. 6.

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