Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music hires new CEO

D. Riley Nicholson.

D. Riley Nicholson is set to become the next CEO of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, effective Oct. 1. He replaces Ellen Primack, who announced in March that she was stepping down after 33 years heading the festival. Nicholson has served as the CEO of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas.

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The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music will soon have a new leader.

The celebrated Santa Cruz-based music festival announced on Thursday that D. Riley Nicholson has been hired as the festival’s CEO effective Oct. 1, replacing the retiring Ellen Primack.

Since 2020, Nicholson has served in the same role at the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, where he commissioned new works from living composers and expanded that organization’s symphonic season. He previously worked at the Center for New Music in San Francisco and Dance Film SF. He has also served on the board of directors at Berkeley Ballet Theatre.

Ellen Primack is stepping down as executive director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music after 32 years.

Primack announced in March that she was stepping down from her role as the festival’s CEO after 33 years. She will serve alongside music director and conductor Cristian Macelaru through the festival’s 61st summer season the first two weekends of August.

The Cabrillo Festival also announced that it has received a $35,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts.

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