By Joe Szek
Antonio Sarmiento will always be eternally grateful for the opportunity to partake in the success at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre over the last five years. When his contract expired January 1 of this year, he took a short hiatus to re-assess where he was wanted to go next and what he wanted to accomplish in the field of live entertainment.
So many people and many of his Facebook followers begged and pleaded with him not to go far which gladdened his heart as Antonio has put down roots in Cobourg with his family over the past 10 years as a Cobourg resident and proud Cobourg Rotarian. He had explored opportunities in California, Pennsylvania and Florida. He also attended the acclaimed Disney Institute’s Leadership Excellence program, which excited him again in his passion and growth in the business of marketing and business strategies in providing innovative live entertainment.
He then never expected what happened next:
‘I was awarded a position working directly for the Corporation of the Town of Cobourg as Artistic & Creative Consultant to the Town of Cobourg with specific emphasis on the development of live entertainment at the Concert Hall at Victoria Hall. What also drew me to this opportunity is the unique design of the venue and the ability to use technology to enhance everything produced there while embracing the historical elements of this beautiful and historic building.”
Sarmiento compares his new position to boarding a stable ship that has already been at sea (with a fabulous team) at Victoria Hall that just needed a captain to begin the process of guiding her to new ports. He states that he has the marketing, resources and support of the town of Cobourg behind him to create exciting opportunities.
Given fiscal restraints currently in Ontario right now, Antonio has learned how to “stretch a penny” in his words. He’s been down this road before working for Non-Profit organizations and more locally at the Park Theatre and Performing Arts Centre which he leased over ten years ago where he had no funding but great success. What he’s learned from his work at the Park Theatre and his tenure at the Capitol Theatre was the caveat for innovation in an economic manner.
“The evolution of technology plus the skill sets I’ve acquired working with incredible mentors over career my have been a key factor in allowing me to put everything I have learned from Stage to Film to Digital Entertainment to use. The amazing teams I have had around me to execute this vision have also been critical success factors. Working with some of Canada’s top choreographers, Music Directors and performers while creating new ways to produce entertainment has been a great learning experience and I owe a lot to those that have stood beside me and trusted a new vision. When I walked into my new position here at Victoria Hall, I knew I had been here before. New building, similar challenges, but a wonderful new opportunity to evolve a vision I have fostered over ten years, I’ve learned what to do, how to do it and I’m ready to do it bigger and better,” he says.
Antonio comments on the fact Victoria Hall has so much going for it – ticketing services, excellent lighting and sound facilities, a 360 open concept venue which allows for so much development and growth. All of this is prime for innovation, and according to Sarmiento, “innovation doesn’t have to cost millions of dollars.” As revenue comes in, the town of Cobourg could continue to re-invest which will ensure bigger and better events can occur at Victoria Hall. There is a great opportunity here.
I asked him why people might consider travelling east to Cobourg for entertainment rather than travelling to Toronto:
“Northumberland County is very rich with talent. I like to think of it as a big city with a small-town heart. Our new website which is part of ExperienceCobourg.ca will delve further into what the town has to offer. Cobourg has a vibrant arts scene to discover boasting a setting that could not be more magical with the town’s picturesque location on the shore of Lake Ontario. It is the unforgettable backdrop for its majestic town hall, Victoria Hall. The beautifully restored building also houses the Concert Hall, the Citizens' Forum, the historic "Courtroom" and the Art Gallery of Northumberland.”
Antonio stresses the importance of community, liaisons and partnerships in his new position. Since Cobourg is a bigger town, there should always be communication between all venues because as the tide rises all ships go up with it. What has impressed Antonio a lot in this new position is the fact that he didn’t have to try to consider ways of getting youth involved in the community. Victoria Hall already has many opportunities for youth involvement which is an exciting initiative that can be enhanced by his vision.
Whenever I’ve spoken with Antonio, I’m always impressed with his passion and drive to build community, to build bridges and to foster partnerships and liaisons with people and communities. I am most certainly looking forward to returning to Victoria Hall for its many events. If you ever see him on the streets of Cobourg or at Victoria Hall, stop and have a chat with him and you too will catch his passion and drive.