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festival stories

Cabrillo is the highlight of the summer for me and my mother (Northwestern University Music degree many years ago!)...between Cabrillo and the San Francisco Symphony the rest of the year we're pretty well covered. Cabrillo has put on some of the most interesting and dynamic programs the past several years; I just love the Festival and count my blessings that I live in the area instead of some other places where the musical adventures would be looked down upon!

My request for the San Juan Bautista Sunday evening concert of first row, violin side, came from a ticket mess-up that same year when the only seats they had were those, and the second piece was a trombone concerto! Lee Duckles (principal cello) asked me before the piece 'Is your health insurance paid up?' Those seats are as close as I'll get to playing in an orchestra...and my Mom just loves them since it brings back memories of playing in college!  —Thomas F. O'Neill


The festival has been a great blessing to our family (and I think to all families in Santa Cruz). I have a very unusual daughter who started walking and bilingual talking at 6m and was running fast and non stop movement at 9m when we went to our first 'family concert' at the festival. She was mesmerized and this child who is always in movement, did not move for the entire concert which let me know how much she loved it. Before a year she started asking for 'opera' that I thought must be because she liked the word as we know little on that topic. But soon it became clear that it was 'opera' that she liked and was requesting and not just the word. So that next summer at around 21m, I saw her mesmerized again as she watched the opera 'little women' and true to her word she was still and quiet the whole time.

The festival helped me to learn about her love of music in a deeper way and take her to things I never would have thought to do. She has loved seeing 5 adult operas before the age of 2.5 and was in heaven at her own first suzuki violin concert at two. This year (at 34m) she (and we) loved the family festival weekend where we spent long hours both days, spending lots of time watching the rehearsals and looking forward to the San Juan Batista concerts.

We plan to put the festival as a priority every summer and not to miss any. We tell everybody about this great opportunity for our community and feel so grateful to all who make it possible!  —Festival attendee


Festival violinist John Andersen has been a guest in our home on three different occasions but had never practiced at the house. On his last stay, my wife, Robin, hounded him until he finally gave in and played in the kitchen while she prepared dinner. It was a glorious day with all windows and doors wide open and John gave a stunning concert for all within earshot. When he finished, I opened the door on my way to the wine cellar, and there was Thelma, our friendly hen, perched on the stair landing. Apparently she had entered through the garage door and made her way up the stairway to enjoy the music at close range. We all had a good laugh and I took our musical 'girl' back to the coop.

The following Sunday morning it was another fabulous Santa Cruz day and again all doors were wide open. As I passed by the parlor, something unusual caught my eye. There was Thelma perched on the couch as if to say 'where's the concert'? The often free-ranging hens had never before, or since, entered the house. A couple of years have passed since John has played the Festival, but Thelma is still waiting the return of that sweet violin!  —Gary Garmann

When we bought our house in 1989, the owner and her deceased husband had been original and long time festival supporters. She told us that if we bought the house we would have to house a festival musician! We agreed and have spent many years hosting composers and guest artists. This turned out to be one of the best purchase/sale conditions providing unforgettable experiences and some life long friends.  —Linda and Bruce Nicholson

My three year old daughter accompanied me to the 2002 Festival. For two weeks she attended every rehearsal and concert. While wandering 'backstage' one afternoon, we passed by Marin walking from her dressing room to go out and start a rehearsal. Grace was unabashedly singing away in the hallway - Marin recognized the music she was belting out - the theme to Daugherty's 'Route 66'. Later on in the week, she was inspired to create elaborate pictures of stories about aliens, and was asking to give them to the soloist, Evelyn Glennie (who performed the concerto 'UFO'). Who would have guessed she'd be so inspired by the music? —Ella M. Fredrickson

I was first introduced to the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music when I was a staff member at KUSP National Public Radio station in 1984. Dennis Russell Davies was the conductor at the first Cabrillo Festival that I attended, and it was a truly magical ear-opening experience! My son Joel Ford had the incredible opportunity to join the Festival student staff in 1994 when he was just 16 years old, and an aspiring musician. Joel is now a music major at UCSC and continues to work with the Cabrillo Festival student musicians at past festivals. The Festival offers an invaluable community service by providing a world-class musical forum in which our children can participate, learn, and flourish.  —Cathy Summa