Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music Announces 2024 Season: Music as Movement

Contact: Steph C Sherwood or Steven Swartz 

Season highlights include four world premieres, eight West Coast premieres, fourteen composers in residence, and the inaugural Creative Lab featuring a new cross-disciplinary experience by Bora Yoon 

Updated May 28, 2024: Addition of the West Coast Premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ Trumpet Concerto & Composer Clarice Assad in Residence. READ MORE HERE.

SANTA CRUZ, CA—March 19, 2024—The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, America’s longest-running festival of new orchestral music, announces its 62nd season, July 29 – August 11, 2024.

Every summer, Cabrillo Festival offers composers a haven to experiment and realize their visions for the music of today. The Festival fosters a community of artists and audiences as they come together to participate in the creative process. Under the leadership of Grammy Award-winning Music Director and Conductor Cristian Măcelaru, this year’s festival, themed “Music as Movement,” boasts 15 composers in residence, alongside four world premieres and nine West Coast premieres. 

“This season will resoundingly demonstrate living music as movement – as our music, our stories, are never static,” says Măcelaru. “Each piece is a powerful testament to music as movement in many forms. We’ll present music that pushes the boundaries of orchestral sound, music that connects distant times and places, and music that powerfully represents physical, cultural, and social movements – the ever-changing stories that bind us all.”

This year’s composers in residence are Karim Al-Zand, Clarice Assad, Lembit Beecher, Juan Pablo Contreras, Nathaniel Heyder, Pierre Jalbert, Daniel Kellogg, Vivian Fung, Helen Grime, Iván Enrique Rodríguez, Gabriella Smith, Greg Smith, Errollyn Wallen, Nina Young, and Bora Yoon. A work by Wynton Marsalis is also on the program. This year’s guest artists include Gabriel Cabezas on amplified cello, Leila Josefowicz on violin, Miriam Khalil as soprano, Karen Ouzounian on cello, Michael Sachs on trumpet, and Philippe Quint on violin.

“The breadth, depth, and originality of our lineup are enabled by a Festival model and community that is equally forward-thinking,” Festival Executive Director, D. Riley Nicholson said. “We move the artform forward by working to dismantle the traditional barriers associated with orchestral music – providing unmatched access to the creative process through daily free open rehearsals, insightful composer talks & community events, and professional development programs like the Conductors/Composers Workshop, enabling present and future generations of new music champions. We remove the ‘velvet rope’ and invite everyone to witness the energy, humanity, and creative possibilities of orchestral music.

Nicholson continued, “This commitment extends to our beloved Free Family Concert, ensuring a space for all ages to experience the joy and wonder of orchestral music.”

Parade – Friday, August 2, 8pm

The 62nd season kicks off with Maestro Măcelaru leading the Festival Orchestra in works by Vivian Fung, Helen Grime, Nina Young, and Karim Al-Zand

Beginning our season, Berkeley-based, JUNO Award-winning, Canadian composer Vivian Fung‘s West Coast premiere of Parade captures the essence of community amid solitude, reflecting on the journey from isolation to togetherness experienced during the pandemic. Inspired by the San Francisco Lunar New Year parade, Fung intertwines chaos and melancholy with empathy and gratitude, echoing the spirit of celebration amidst adversity.

The West Coast premiere of Helen Grime‘s Violin Concerto, featuring the virtuosic talents of Leila Josefowicz, embarks on a mesmerizing experience of contrasts. Composed as one continuous movement, the Violin Concerto falls into three main sections connected by dreamlike interlinking passages. Violent, virtuosic music covering the whole range of the violin is contrasted with more delicate and reflective material.

Nina Young’s Tread softly, receiving its West Coast premiere, was created for the centennial of the 19th Amendment, reflecting on the Women’s Suffrage movement and ongoing struggle for gender equality and representation. This work considers the cycles of progress and backlash in women’s fight for suffrage, with patterns of melodies that continue to build and dissipate. 

Tunisian-born, Canadian-American composer Karim Al-Zand’s world premiere of Al Hakawati, featuring the captivating soprano Miriam Khalil, is a journey into the essence of storytelling. Translated as “the Storyteller”, it is an enchanting exploration of “the stories we tell, and why we tell them.” This work is based on scenes from an opera in progress –a project that will start at Cabrillo Festival and then move throughout the world. 

Unbound – Saturday, August 3, 7pm

Maestro Măcelaru leads the Festival Orchestra in works by composers Daniel Kellogg, Nathaniel Heyder, Lembit Beecher, and Iván Enrique Rodríguez.

Daniel Kellogg‘s music has been celebrated for its “palpable intellectual energy… superbly crafted and controlled” (The New Yorker). Receiving its West Coast premiere,The Golden Spike commemorates the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad and explores the prolific economic, cultural, and genocidal changes brought about by its creation.

The Festival presents unbound: Phase 1, a world premiere by the rising composer Nathaniel Heyder, whose piece embodies a pivotal moment in Heyder’s life, a period marked by a sense of artistic and spiritual freedom. Heyder is the recipient of the inaugural Emerging Black Composers Cabrillo Festival Prize, a prestigious award established to support emerging talent, and given to a finalist of the Emerging Black Composers Project, in partnership with San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. 

Lembit Beecher writes music stemming from a fascination with the way memories, histories, and stories permeate our contemporary lives. His West Coast premiere of Tell Me Again, delves into narratives of immigration and heritage. It was composed for the virtuosic cellist Karen Ouzounian, whose Armenian grandmother immigrated from Beirut to Canada during the Lebanese Civil War. Beecher’s own grandmother, an Estonian, fled to the U.S. during the later stages of World War II, spending five years in displaced persons camps. Beecher composed this concerto with the “cello as the embodiment of” these deeply personal stories and familial histories.

Human movement through migration and immigration will also be powerfully portrayed by a new orchestral work by Puerto Rican composer Iván Enrique Rodríguez in a world premiere commissioned by the Cabrillo Festival. Narrated live by Rodríguez himself, using texts sourced from individuals around the world, his new work will explore the lived experiences of those displaced, delving into the connections of immigrants and refugees with their homelands, and their personal journeys as they navigate new territories.

Greg Smith VIBE – Family Concert, Sunday, August 4, 1pm

The Festival’s cherished free Family Concert returns after a four-year hiatus. This year’s program features the delightful VIBE, a lighthearted symphonic exploration by returning composer Greg Smith. Renowned for his family-friendly compositions, his work is a mainstay in the genre, with many previous works premiered on the Festival stage. This interactive concert promises an engaging afternoon perfect for concertgoers of all ages. Audience participation plays a key role in the event and the ever-popular “Tour of the Orchestra” allows families to meet musicians and get up close with the fascinating instruments that bring music to life.

In Concert with Philippe Quint The Muse – Sunday, August 4, 7pm

The Cabrillo Festival presents Grammy Award-nominated violinist Philippe Quint’s The Muse, a chamber recital. The Muse leads the audience through masterpieces by glass-ceiling-shattering composers such as Ethel Smyth, Clara Schumann, Nadia Boulanger, and Florence Price. These women transformed classical music in their time, while also acting as mentors and educators – well beyond the usual definition of “muse.” A deeply personal journey, The Muse culminates in contemporary work by Quint’s mother, the celebrated composer Lora Kvint, and also presents works from today’s preeminent female composers, including Lera Auerbach, Jessie Montgomery, and Errollyn Wallen, with poetry by Gertrude Stein and Lera Auerbach.

Creative Coast – Saturday, August 10, 7pm

The second weekend of the Cabrillo Festival kicks off with the debut of the Cabrillo Festival’s Creative Lab featuring a world premiere by Bora Yoon and a powerful work by Gabriella Smith

Gabriella Smith’s music is described as “high-voltage and wildly imaginative” (Philadelphia Inquirer), and “the coolest, most exciting, most inventive new voice I’ve heard in ages” (Musical America). She returns to the Cabrillo Festival to present Lost Coast, a cello concerto featuring the dynamic Gabriel Cabezas on amplified cello. This work immerses audiences in a performance inspired by the rugged beauty of California’s northern coastline while also expressing the grief, loss, rage, and fear experienced in the loss and displacement of those habitats from climate change.

In a recent addition to this concert, Wynton Marsalis‘ West Coast Premiere of his new Trumpet Concerto takes listeners on a journey through emotions. It opens with a powerful fanfare highlighting the trumpet’s strength with accomplished soloist Michael Sachs leading the way. It then transitions to a lyrical duet with the oboe. The other movements explore Afro-Hispanic influences, and then delving into the blues, showcasing the roots of American music. This blend of styles reflects the 2024 Season’s theme of music as a force for connection and movement.

The Cabrillo Festival unveils the Creative Lab, a new project that gives curatorial control to the composer, empowering them to rethink the orchestral experience. In its inaugural year Măcelaru leads the Festival Orchestra in a world premiere by Korean-American composer, vocalist, and sound artist Bora Yoon. The composer will realize this creative freedom through spatial placement of the orchestra, technology, and production design. Entitled PARHELION, this immersive sonic experience will unfold within the distinctive architecture of Santa Cruz’s Civic Auditorium. Collaborating with Interval Studios and Visual Endeavors for multimedia and design, Yoon’s composition defies conventional boundaries, immersing listeners in a captivating fusion of sound and light. Drawing inspiration from time, seasons, and the concept of cycles, Yoon’s innovative structure incorporates movements by orchestral players to generate dynamic projections and interactive graphics.

Passage – Sunday, August 11, 7pm

The Cabrillo Festival concludes with a symphonic journey featuring works by composers Clarice Assad, Erollyn Wallen, Pierre Jalbert, and Juan Pablo Contreras

A powerful communicator renowned for her musical scope and versatility, Brazilian-American Clarice Assad is a significant artistic voice in the classical, world music, pop, and jazz genres. Her work, Baião ‘N Blues is inspired by Brazilian music’s lively rhythms and infused with American blues’ soulful essence. In its West Coast premiere, Baião ‘N Blues showcases the power of music to transcend cultural boundaries and connect people through the traditional rhythm and dance of the Brazilian Baião with the Blues.

Belize-born British composer Errollyn Wallen‘s West Coast premiere Violin Concerto, a years-long collaborative effort between the composer and violinist Philippe Quint, encapsulates Quint’s childhood memories and technical prowess. Born in Belize and based in the UK, Wallen melds styles and musical thoughts, drawing inspiration from Quint’s recollections of church bells and a lullaby. This concerto showcases Quint’s spellbinding playing and personal narrative woven into the music.

“The American composer Pierre Jalbert writes music of considerable elegance,” wrote Joshua Kosman in the San Francisco Chronicle. In its West Coast premiere, Jalbert’s Passage pays homage to Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony. Transforming Beethoven’s musical passages, Jalbert’s composition unfolds in three contrasting movements, moving us between centuries and grounding us in the present. 

Mexican composer Juan Pablo Contreras combines Western classical and Mexican folk music in a single soundscape. A fitting end to the season, Mariachitlán transports listeners to the vibrant streets of Jalisco, Mexico, where the spirit of mariachi music thrives. Inspired by the region’s landscapes and traditions, Contreras transforms the orchestra into a firework display of mariachi color, traveling to an imaginary place called Mariachitlán (Mariachi-land).




Festival tickets range from $30-$82 for individual concerts and $295-360 for full subscriptions. Many events are free and open to the public. The public may access information on the Festival website at or call (831) 426-6966; and are encouraged to join the mailing list to receive updates. 

Full Subscriptions may be ordered online, by phone (831-420-5260 x5) or in person at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium Box Office, 307 Church Street beginning April 30; Single Tickets may be purchased beginning June 4. The Box Office is open Tuesday through Friday, 12 to 4pm, and during events.


All events will be held at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium at 307 Church Street in Downtown Santa Cruz.


Friday, August 2, 8pm –  Parade

Vivian Fung: Parade (West Coast Premiere)              

Helen Grime: Violin Concerto (Leila Josefowicz, violin) (West Coast Premiere) 

Nina Young: Tread Softly (West Coast Premiere) 

Karim Al-Zand: Al Hakawati (Miriam Khalil, soprano) (World Premiere | Festival Co-commission)

Saturday, August 3, 7pm – Unbound

Daniel Kellogg: The Golden Spike (West Coast Premiere) 

Nathaniel Heyder: unbound: Phase 1 (World Premiere | Festival Commission) 

Lembit Beecher: Tell Me Again (Karen Ouzounian, cello) (West Coast Premiere)

Iván Enrique Rodríguez: Casting the Dice (World Premiere | Festival Commission)

Sunday, August 4, 1pm – Free Family Concert 

Greg Smith: VIBE

Sunday, August 4, 7pm

In Concert with Philippe Quint: The Muse

Saturday, August 10, 7pm – Creative Coast

Gabriella Smith: Lost Coast (Gabriel Cabezas, amplified cello)

Wynton Marsalis: Concerto for Trumpet (Michael Sachs, trumpet) (West Coast Premiere)

Bora Yoon: PARHELION, Creative Lab (World Premiere | Festival Commission)

Sunday, August 11, 7pm – Passage

Clarice Assad: Baião ‘N Blues (West Coast Premiere) 

Errollyn Wallen: Violin Concerto (Philippe Quint, violin) (West Coast Premiere)  

Pierre Jalbert: Passage (West Coast Premiere) 

Juan Pablo Contreras: Mariachitlán



  • Nathaniel Heyder: unbound: Phase 1
  • Iván Enrique Rodríguez: Casting the Dice
  • Bora Yoon: PARHELION, Creative Lab 
  • Karim Al-Zand: Al Hakawati

8 West Coast PREMIERES

  • Clarice Assad: Baião ‘N Blues
  • Lembit Beecher: Tell Me Again
  • Vivian Fung: Parade
  • Helen Grime: Violin Concerto
  • Pierre Jalbert: Passage
  • Daniel Kellogg: The Golden Spike
  • Wynton Marsalis: Concerto for Trumpet
  • Errollyn Wallen: Violin Concerto
  • Nina Young: Tread softly


  • Clarice Assad 
  • Karim Al-Zand
  • Lembit Beecher
  • Juan Pablo Contreras
  • Nathaniel Heyder
  • Pierre Jalbert
  • Daniel Kellogg
  • Wynton Marsalis
  • Vivian Fung
  • Iván Enrique Rodríguez
  • Gabriella Smith
  • Greg Smith
  • Errollyn Wallen
  • Helen Grime
  • Nina Young
  • Bora Yoon


  • Gabriel Cabezas – Amplified Cello
  • Leila Josefowicz – Violin
  • Miriam Khalil – Soprano
  • Karen Ouzounian – Cello
  • Michael Sachs – Trumpet
  • Philippe Quint – Violin
  • Bora Yoon – Vocals



Cabrillo Festival is America’s preeminent and longest standing festival dedicated solely to new music for orchestra. As Joshua Kosman recently remarked, “an entire microcosm springs up around the proceedings, devoted not only to new music, but also to camaraderie and a shared sense of adventure that encompasses the musicians and the audiences alike… The festival’s welcoming warmth spills out beyond the confines of the hall.” [SF Chronicle, 2023]

An annual two-week event in Santa Cruz, CA, the Festival brings together a world-class orchestra of professional players, composers, and guest artists from around the world to present a series of concerts and free public programs celebrating new symphonic music by living composers, most of whom are in residence. Cristian Măcelaru, Music Director since 2017, follows a distinguished roster of artistic directors including Music Director Laureate Marin Alsop, John Adams, Dennis Russell Davies, Carlos Chávez, and Gerhard Samuel. The Festival has presented hundreds of world, U.S., and West Coast premieres involving the participation of more than nearly 400 composers on the “main stage,” plus more than 60 emerging composers from our Composers Workshop. Cabrillo Festival has commissioned more than 50 works over the past fifteen years.

Over the past thirty years, the Festival’s commitment to mentorship of the next generation of conductors, composers, and performers, has become core to its mission. Educational programs include the prestigious Conductors/Composers Workshop and the Student Staff Program.

Winner of the League of American Orchestras and ASCAP’s John S. Edward Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music, Cabrillo Festival has been acknowledged by New York’s WQXR radio as one of the top five incubators of new music in the world and dubbed a “new music mecca” by The New York Times.


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