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Cabrillo Festival unveils electrifying 61st season celebrating contemporary music in Santa Cruz

Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music 2023
The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, America’s longest-running Festival of new orchestral music, celebrates its 61st season July 30 – August 13, 2023.
(RR Jones)

The 61st season of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, America’s longest-running festival of new orchestral music, is set to amaze audiences from July 30 to August 13, 2023.

Music Director and Conductor Cristian Măcelaru
Grammy Award-winning Music Director and Conductor Cristian Măcelaru, will be leading the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music for its 2023 season.
(Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music)

Under the baton of Grammy Award-winning Music Director and Conductor Cristian Măcelaru, the Cabrillo Festival embraces “music of our time, for our time,” providing a haven for composers to showcase contemporary pieces that resonate with the world around us.

Fueled by boundless energy, hope, and innovation, the festival welcomes fourteen resident composers and seven acclaimed guest artists. It boasts an impressive lineup, featuring two World premiere commissions, one US premiere, and nine West Coast premieres. This year’s program also includes three captivating percussion concerti, a heartfelt tribute to co-founder Robert Hughes, and a poignant farewell to longtime Executive Director Ellen Primack, stepping down after an extraordinary 33-season tenure.

The roster of esteemed composers in residence comprises Dan Caputo, Anna Clyne, Sebastian Currier, Xavier Foley, Jennifer Higdon, Gabriela Ortiz, Kevin Puts, Andrea Reinkemeyer, Peter Shin, Carlos Simon, Gabriella Smith, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Julia Wolfe, and Bora Yoon. Additionally, works by Tan Dun, Robert Hughes, and Olga Neuwirth will grace the stage.

Among the illustrious guest artists are percussion virtuosos Colin Currie, Svet Stoyanov, Matthew Strauss, and Beibei Wang, the exceptional bassist Xavier Foley, renowned violinist Eunice Kim, and the Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet.

In addition to the thrilling evening concerts, the Cabrillo Festival will continue its cherished tradition of hosting Open Rehearsals, Meet the Composers sessions, and the Conductors/Composers Workshop professional training program, which focuses on the creation, performance, and promotion of new music.

Opening night, Forward—Friday, August 4, 8 PM, will be a momentous occasion as Maestro Măcelaru introduces an array of West Coast premieres by acclaimed composers Sarah Kirkland Snider, Jennifer Higdon, Sebastian Currier, and Bora Yoon. Notably, Sarah Kirkland Snider’s “Forward into Light” will captivate audiences with its meditation on perseverance, bravery, and the legacy of American women suffragists.

The following evening, Tears of Nature—Saturday, August 5, 7 PM, will see Maestro Măcelaru leading the Festival Orchestra through works by Peter Shin, Carlos Simon, Andrea Reinkemeyer, and Tan Dun. One highlight includes the poignant percussion concerto, “The Tears of Nature,” composed by Academy and Grammy Award-winner Tan Dun, reflecting on the beauty of nature and the threats to our survival.

Sunday, August 6, 7 PM, will feature a special performance by the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet, a Grammy-winning ensemble renowned for redefining the possibilities of a string quartet.

On Saturday, August 12, 7 PM, the Festival will showcase works by Gabriella Smith, Julia Wolfe, Gabriela Ortiz, Robert Hughes, and Olga Neuwirth. Notably, Robert Hughes’ posthumous tribute, Uutiqtut, inspired by the Arctic region’s nature, will honor the visionary co-founder’s lasting legacy.

The season concludes on Sunday, August 13, 7 PM, with Wild Geese—a breathtaking finale featuring works by Dan Caputo, Xavier Foley, Robert Hughes, Kevin Puts, and Anna Clyne. Maestro Măcelaru will lead the Festival Orchestra in the world premiere of Wild Geese, a moving tribute to Ellen Primack, the festival’s outgoing Executive Director. Anna Clyne’s pioneering composition will inaugurate the Augmented Orchestra, a groundbreaking creative exploration combining live orchestral music with computer-controlled processes.

Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music 2023
2023 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music staff
(Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music)

All Festival events will be hosted at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, located at 307 Church Street in Downtown Santa Cruz.

Buy your tickets today at or call (831) 426-6966.

  • Event
    2023 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music
    The 61st season of the Cabrillo Festival from July 30 – August 13, 2023 promises an electrifying celebration of contemporary music, offering audiences an unparalleled experience of creative expression and artistic innovation.