Who We Are


The McKnight Center inspires and transforms individuals’ lives through artistic excellence, shared creative experiences, and impactful learning opportunities. Performances and events are presented in a supportive environment that seeks to eliminate obstacles to attendance for all audiences.

The Foundation for the McKnight Center

The McKnight Foundation exists to manage and operate The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The McKnight Foundation is governed by an eight-member board of trustees and an executive director. The foundation is responsible for the operation and programming of The McKnight Center.

Marilynn and Carl Thoma Executive Director

Mark A. Blakeman was announced as the inaugural Marilynn and Carl Thoma Executive Director of The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts at Oklahoma State University in March 2017. He brings to the position vast knowledge and direct experience overseeing large-scale construction projects, building programs and raising philanthropic support. He will work with the McKnight Foundation Board of Trustees and provide strategic direction and oversight to The McKnight Center. His scope of responsibility will include branding and institutional visibility, revenue enhancement, operational and strategic planning, outreach and education, governance and financial management. One of his first tasks is to schedule the inaugural season and grand opening of The McKnight Center, which will include interfacing with the New York Philharmonic to develop and implement its residency partnership that was announced last September. It will be the first time in more than 30 years that the internationally celebrated organization will perform in Oklahoma. In addition to multiple New York Philharmonic performances at The McKnight Center, the residency partnership will include educational opportunities for OSU students with Philharmonic musicians and management, such as masterclasses, audition workshop and lectures. Blakeman was appointed President and CEO of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra in 2014, bringing more than eighteen years of performing arts and arts education experience to this leadership position. In his first year, he expanded the Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s community partnerships, broadened its appeal through the creation of a new Family Series for the 2015-16 season and joined his colleagues in the arts community to advocate for a bond issue that would, among many other benefits, improve the Tucson Music Hall where the orchestra performs. Blakeman came to the Tucson Symphony Orchestra after more than fifteen years with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. During his Nashville tenure, he served in a number of leadership roles, including as Chief Operating Officer. Under his leadership, the Nashville Symphony achieved a 26 percent growth in ticket sales, an increase of nearly 70 percent in contributed income, and record-breaking earned revenues in ancillary businesses. Blakeman’s extensive experience in electronic media work includes overseeing more than 25 commercial recording projects, which garnered seven GRAMMY Awards®, and more than ten national telecasts resulting in two regional Emmy nominations and one Emmy Award. Prior to Nashville, Blakeman worked at Oklahoma City University’s Bass School of Music as the Director of Student Services and as Director of the Performing Arts Academy, the school’s preparatory community music school. He served as an adjunct instructor at both Oklahoma City University and Middle Tennessee State University, teaching coursework in acoustics, survey of American popular music and orchestral music and management. He has served as a clinician at the Tennessee, Oklahoma and Texas all-state music conferences, lecturing on concert production and artist engagement. Blakeman holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Business from Middle Tennessee State University and a Master of Business Administration in Arts Administration from Oklahoma City University. In 2008, he was recognized as a distinguished alumnus of Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communications. He is originally from Moore, Oklahoma.