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California Symphony Signs New Contracts with Music Director Donato Cabrera and Executive Director Au

On behalf of the California Symphony board of directors, President Bill Armstrong announces Music Director Donato Cabrera and Executive Director Aubrey Bergauer have both agreed to separate contract extensions, effective August 1.

Donato Cabrera joined the California Symphony in 2013 after a national search to replace founding Music Director Barry Jekowsky. One year later, in 2014, Executive Director Aubrey Bergauer was recruited to the California Symphony to lead the organization through a financial turnaround. Both Cabrera and Bergauer brought experience from much larger institutions: Cabrera from San Francisco Symphony, where he served as Resident Conductor and Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, and Bergauer from Seattle, where she spent the previous decade with Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, and the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival. After one season, Bergauer moved the organization from its prior years of budget shortfalls to ending in the black, with three of the last four years ending with surpluses—including the most recent fiscal year that concluded on July 31—used to nearly eradicate the company’s past accumulated debt. Under Cabrera’s baton, the orchestra has reached new artistic heights, secured a permanent concertmaster in Jennifer Cho of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, filled multiple orchestra vacancies, and built on its reputation for championing new music.

Together, the two have created a concert experience that emphasizes welcoming newcomers and loyalists alike with a dogmatic focus on patron retention, and over the last four years, the audience has nearly doubled, with 97% more tickets sold during the 2017/18 season than four seasons prior. Through a similar approach in 2016, Bergauer and Cabrera revamped the organization’s annual special event fundraiser, producing a new event called Symphony Surround where the orchestra performs literally surrounding and among the dinner tables so guests see the musicians and the maestro as if all on stage together. Earlier that same year, the team led the California Symphony to be one of the first professional orchestras to stream a unionized orchestra concert on then-newly launched platform Facebook Live.

More recently, this past season the duo pushed for—and ultimately published along with Board President Bill Armstrong—a public commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion across all facets of the organization. And this spring, under Bergauer and Cabrera’s direction, the Symphony rolled out a four-pronged multiculturalism plan to help their growing audience become more representative of the community they serve, which includes strategies from advertising in English and Spanish to launching an adult education course called Fresh Look: The Symphony Exposed. The orchestra has simultaneously expanded its footprint in the last four years, with performances around the region in Napa Valley, Concord, Oakland, and Berkeley in addition to its home base of Walnut Creek.

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