Melt is Sean Shepherd’s critically acclaimed musical lament on climate change and the disappearance of the world’s glaciers. Co-commissioned and performed by the Festival Orchestra in 2018, now renowned National Geographic photographer Camille Seaman has set her breathtaking imagery to the archival recording for a deeply moving virtual experience. Shepherd’s new Festival commission, Sprout, is a more hopeful sequel that reflects on the resilience of the forest after wildfire. The digital world premiere features the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra and is presented in two captivating versions: one brought to life by animation artists David Murakami and Sam Clevenger, and a second produced and edited by Svet Stoyanov, putting our Cabrillo Festival Virtual Orchestra musicians squarely in the spotlight.

Be sure to check out this INTERVIEW WITH CAMILLE SEAMAN


Melt (2018)
Sean Shepherd (b. 1979)
West Coast Premiere | Festival Co-commission
Recorded at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium on August 11, 2018

Sean Shepherd’s Melt was co-commissioned by the Grand Teton Music Festival and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. The composer presented the following note:

It is rarely simple to speak to questions of “how” and “why” regarding the music one writes, but the impetus behind Melt is one I can describe with relative ease. The places—Jackson Hole and Santa Cruz—in which Melt will first be performed are both very special to me, and while I’ve written pieces that are a response of one kind or another to various places, this piece, this response, and in the end, this message, is different.

Glaciers are profoundly elemental to the development of the landscapes of Northern California and Western Wyoming, it need not be said to any native. And it’s one of the most obvious signs for any visitor that the mountains that they’ve carved like the most noble of sculptures are no mere hills. The great naturalist John Muir was the first to point this geological reality out, to initial derision from scientists of his day and the great surveyor of Yellowstone, Ferdinand V. Hayden, began taking steps to protect the area immediately upon seeing it. And while 11 glaciers (ice that never fully melts with the changing seasons, usually in alpine or arctic climates) still currently exist in Grand Teton National Park, the vast changes that have already occurred within just a few lifetimes means that, in places like California and Wyoming, the mighty ice-scoop of nature will for certain go The Way of the Dodo.

Melt is, plainly and simply, a lament, from no more than a powerless bystander. The tempo indications in this single slow movement are marked “Frozen,” “Drowning,” “Liquid,” and “Final,” and may or may not be taken literally. As a result, the piece might be heard as program music—a musical melting, chaos, and reformation in an altered state—or, in purely emotional terms: an exploration of feelings about these lands I have known my whole life. I myself have found my agony over ice turning to water in itself a kind of personal surprise, but when I think of the glacially slow tragedy unfolding before our eyes, all I can do is put my head down and cry.

Melt is dedicated to my friend Cristi Măcelaru, who gave the West Coast premiere at the Cabrillo Festival on August 11, 2018. Donald Runnicles and the Grand Teton Music Festival presented the world premiere on July 27, 2018. I am grateful to both of these organizations for jointly inviting me to expound on a topic (in every way) so near to me.

–Sean Shepherd

Sprout (2021)
Sean Shepherd (b. 1979)
Digital World Premiere | Festival Commission

Sprout was commissioned by Cabrillo Festival with the generous support of Robert & Carolyn Levering.

In the summer of 2020 I watched in helplessness and horror, as did so many in the Cabrillo Festival community, as the Warnella and Waddell fires burned. From my pandemic sequestration in Pittsburgh I read about evacuations and loss and reflected on the forests of Santa Cruz County and the canopies of protection and comfort they usually provide. They were on fire for more than a month.

I thought of the great redwoods and began to panic about the forest, though I shouldn’t have worried. The trees need the cyclic cleanse of conflagration (something we’ve only begun to recently appreciate) – like the Sequoia groves on the other side of the Central Valley, redwoods are spurred to new growth and life by the heat. While their bark is blackened but not usually charred, new growth, via new shoots at the tree’s base, is spurred. These redwood sprouts grow very quickly – up to seven feet – in the first year after a fire. Along with all of the fireweed, mosses, grasses, and other newly-sunlit forest floor dwellers, regeneration is in process almost immediately.

I think of this work as a hopeful companion to Melt, my 2018 piece for Cristi Măcelaru and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, I deliberately chose not to view the wildfires of 2020 in terms of their tragic human costs. Surely, so many still suffer these fires’ effects, and human contributions to climate change make planning for the future of forests difficult. Rather, Sprout mirrors a natural forest cycle – growth, stasis, decay, regrowth; short of utter destruction, it stops for no person. Where time is relative and decades are undone in minutes and vice-versa, the scale of this cycle is anything but human. Hauntingly beautiful and awesome indeed.

–Sean Shepherd



“An exciting composer of the new American generation” (The New York Times), Sean Shepherd has earned wide acclaim and commissions from major ensembles and performers across the US and Europe. In 2012, Shepherd was named the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural Kravis Emerging Composer and previously served as the Daniel R. Lewis Composer Fellow at the Cleveland Orchestra and composer-in-residence of the Reno Philharmonic.

Shepherd’s music has been commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Maison symphonique de Montréal, National Symphony Orchestra, and New World Symphony Orchestra, and with leading European ensembles including Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, the Asko|Schönberg Ensemble and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. Conductors who champion Shepherd’s work include Kent Nagano, Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, Alan Gilbert, Franz Welser-Möst, Andris Nelsons, Pablo Heras-Casado, Susanna Mälkki, and Matthias Pintscher.

Shepherd’s recent orchestral work Express Abstractionism has been performed across the continents by Boston Symphony Orchestra and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and recorded by Boston Symphony Orchestra for Naxos Records. Other recent highlights include his new saxophone quintet Sonata à 5 for the Music Academy of the West; Melt for orchestra, which premiered at the Grand Teton Music Festival and the Cabrillo Festival; Echo for oboist Nicholas Daniel at the Aldeburgh Festival; wideOPENwide for violinist Jennifer Koh; and Concerto for Ensemble, which premiered at the Philharmonie de Paris, with Matthias Pintscher conducting Ensemble intercontemporain.

Shepherd’s education includes degrees in composition and bassoon performance from Indiana University, a master’s degree from The Juilliard School, and doctoral work at Cornell University with Roberto Sierra and Steven Stucky.

camille seaman, photographer

Camille Seaman was born in 1969 to a father of Shinnecock descent and an African American mother. She graduated in 1992 from the State University of New York at Purchase, where she studied photography with Jan Groover and John Cohen. Her photographs have been published in National Geographic magazine, National Geographic Italia, National Geographic Deutschland, TIME, the New York Times Sunday magazine, Newsweek, Outside, Zeit Wissen, among many others, She leads photographic workshops all over the globe. Her photographs have received many awards including a National Geographic Award, 2006; and the Critical Mass Top Monograph Award, 2007. She is a TED Senior Fellow, Stanford Knight Fellow, as well as a Cinereach Filmmaker-in-Residence Fellow. Camille Seaman strongly believes in capturing photographs that articulate that humans are not separate from nature.

David murakami, animation artist and designer

David Murakami is a projection designer and film director focused on the union between the cinematic and theatrical. Recent productions include the sci-fi musical revue “5-SK1-E-S” aboard Princess Cruises, Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit and Valley of the Heart at the Mark Taper Forum, Elektra with Minnesota Opera, Singin’ in the Rain with McCoy Rigby, Sense and Sensibility at South Coast Repertory, and the world premieres of Gordon Getty’s Scare Pair at LA Opera Off Grand, and Jake Heggie’s Out of Darkness. Other design credits include Opera Parallèle’s Dead Man WalkingChampionLes Enfants Terribles, Heart of Darkness, and The Little Prince; Minnesota Opera’s Das Rheingold and Flight; and the Sun Valley Summer Symphony’s Daphnis et Chloé. During the Covid Pandemic, Murakami has focused on leveraging new technologies, allowing art to flourish despite our collective isolation, merging the traditional performance spaces of theatre, classical music, and opera with cinema, live streaming, and virtual reality. Other collaborators include Opéra de Montréal, San Jose Repertory Theater, SFJazz, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Atlanta Opera, Dallas Opera, and Arizona Opera. Murakami is a proud member of United Scenic Artists 829 and teaches projection design at the University of California, Irvine.

Sam clevenger, animator

Sam Clevenger is an animator and editor by trade who enjoys creating media for a wide variety of forms and purposes, finding unique and fitting styles therein. Most recently, he has had the pleasure of animating for Minnesota Opera’s Lucia Di Lammermoor, as well as for their Opera in the Outfield event. Clevenger’s past work includes media design for East West Players’ Assassins, Minnesota Opera’s Elektra, Princess Cruises’ 5-SK1-E-5, Opera Parallele’s Trouble in Tahiti, and Sun Valley Summer Symphony’s Daphnis et Chloé. Clevenger’s work in film includes assistant editing on the Emmy- and Peabody- nominated documentary film Survivors. He also builds tiny machines out of cardboard when there’s time for that sort of thing.

SVet stoyanov, executive producer, audio/video editing and mixing

Svet Stoyanov has been a percussionist with the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra since 2012. During the 2020 and 2021 Virtual Seasons, he has played a pivotal role in bringing the Festival’s virtual programming to life—as an audio and video producer, editor and mixer. He has been responsible for all orchestral recordings, including the debut of Stacy Garrop’s The Battle for the Ballot. In 2021 he edited and mixed the orchestral audio recordings for Contested Eden, INTONATIONS, and Sprout.

As a percussionist, Stoyanov has been praised by The New York Times for his “understated but unmistakable virtuosity” and a “winning combination of gentleness and fluidity.” A driving force in modern percussion, he has performed more than 1,000 recitals and presented more than 200 masterclasses worldwide. Stoyanov has also commissioned a significant body of solo and chamber works. Most recently, American Rome Prize winner Andy Akiho completed a work titled Pillar IV for Stoyanov and his Time Travelers Percussion Project; it was premiered to great acclaim in New York’s National Sawdust. Another recent commission includes a percussion concerto by Mason Bates titled Sideman, which has been performed in Miami and at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. It has also been recorded by Stoyanov for an upcoming release.

Winner of the prestigious Concert Artists Guild International Competition and the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Award, Stoyanov’s career highlights include solo concerto appearances with the Chicago, Seattle, and American Symphony Orchestras, as well as solo performances in Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center and Taiwan National Concert Hall, among others worldwide. He has recorded for numerous labels, including Telarc, Naxos and Bridge Records.

Stoyanov is the Director and Associate Professor of Percussion Studies at the Frost School of Music, University of Miami; and endorses some of the finest percussion instruments and products today.