Las Vegas Philharmonic Music Director Donato Cabrera talks music in Las Vegas.

Written by Chris Cutler

If I had to choose one word to describe Donato Cabrera, music director and resident conductor of the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra (LVPO), I couldn’t because, quite frankly, there are too many:  Versatile. Talented. Accomplished. Artistic.  Inspirational. Busy. Electric. Definitely busy—He’s resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), music director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, music director of the California Symphony, and music director of the New Hampshire Music Festival (NHMF).

And definitely electric. During a phone interview Cabrera graciously fit in between the NHMF dress rehearsal and performance, his voice crackled with excitement as he discussed music, the LVPO’s upcoming season, and his plans for the philharmonic’s future.

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Donato Cabrera is the music director and resident conductor of the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo courtesy of LVPO.

While Las Vegas and culture are not exactly synonymous in the minds of the people who do not live in our city, Cabrera believes that residents do know what we have and visitors are quickly discovering the hidden gems away from the Strip. “Las Vegas has a lot to offer culturally,” he told me. “and anyone who visits a lot and ventures out discovers that LV has a lot of wonderful things to offer on all fronts. What I love is that it’s a new frontier in terms of involvement in programming and performing. It’s refreshing and exciting to be part of it all.”
Cabrera’s main mission is to make the LVPO part of the community, to make it part of the consciousness of everyone who lives in Las Vegas. He likes to engage the audience in the music by describing the music (especially if it’s a new piece or one that the philharmonic has never performed). In addition to the Spotlight Series that highlights a small selection of performers, the LVPO performers offer mini-concerts at two Las Vegas retirement communities (Las Ventanas and Siena) and, starting this year, will offer four Sunday matinee performances.

While offering Sunday concerts might seem risky to some, Cabrera feels the opposite. “One of the big challenges for families is to attend something at night,” he said. “Kids have school, and parents work. The Sunday concerts are a way for people to bring the younger ones to enjoy two hours of music. When the kids see their parents involved in the music, they get involved. Enthusiasm is infectious.”
Cabrera knows many people don’t believe classical music can excite anyone, but he thinks the skeptics just don’t understand the art form. “Classical music is continually evolving,” he commented. “It’s not just people playing old music. I’m interested in celebrating and performing composers who are alive now, today. I hope people will at least listen with an open heart and experience something new.”

This 2015-2016 ten-concert line-up does, indeed, celebrate the old and the new classical music. In addition to featuring music by Brahms, Beethoven, and Mozart, the LVPO will also play modern classics. Cabrera admits that the whole season excites him.

“I’m so excited to be doing Brahms this year, and I’m really looking forward to performing Gershwin and the original jazz band version of Rhapsody in Blue, which very few people have the opportunity to hear,” he exclaimed. “And Pink Martini’s coming.” Pink Martini, which bills itself as a “little orchestra,” performs classical, Latin, jazz, and classic pop music. Cabrera added, “I think for just a sheer good time, the Pink Martini concert is the one I’d attend. I know how fun it’s going to be. People will be dancing in the aisles.”

I plan to be one of them.

For information on the Philharmonic’s 2015-2016 season, go to lvphil.org.