Cabrillo College in Aptos
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
City Life

What will Cabrillo College renaming mean for arts organizations that share the name?

As Cabrillo College navigates the process of changing its name, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and Cabrillo Stage are keeping an eye on developments. Though it’s not tied to the college, the music festival is “committed to a thoughtful and thorough process for evaluating our name,” while the musical-theater company appears headed for a name change of its own.

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The Cabrillo College name-change proposal has ripple effects beyond the college — namely with other organizations called Cabrillo. The big ones in the arts are, of course, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, approaching the final weekend of its 2023 season, and Cabrillo Stage, which wrapped its summer season just a week ago.

Neither organization is ready to announce yea or nay on whether it will also change its name. The Cabrillo Festival, making a transition to a new executive director, said that it is “committed to a thoughtful and thorough process for evaluating our name in the near future. And we have no predictions about the outcome of our evaluation.”

The festival has no affiliation with Cabrillo College, though it began 60 years ago at the Cabrillo College Theater, around the same time the college itself was established, sparked by a small circle of serious music lovers, including legendary avant-garde composer Lou Harrison. The festival broke away from the college in the late 1970s — the official history points the finger at Proposition 13 — and has been a primarily Santa Cruz-oriented event for more than 30 years now. Whatever its positives or negatives, a name change at the festival would effectively bury the festival’s connection to Aptos. We’ll see how that all plays out.

As for Cabrillo Stage, the musical-theater company that’s been producing summer shows on the Cabrillo campus for well over 40 years? The company has for years touted itself as an independent entity, but its budget and mission are still very much entwined with the college.

Cabrillo Stage’s Andrea L. Hart, who just completed her first season as the company’s new artistic director, said the fate of the company’s name will almost certainly follow that of the college. Whether the theater company would adopt whatever name the college chooses for itself, or take on another name entirely, has yet to be decided, said Hart.