Donato Cabrera

A Resident Conductor for the Community

Donato Cabrera, the San Francisco Symphony’s Resident Conductor since 2009, works closely with Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. In addition to leading the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra (SFYSO) as the Wattis Foundation Music Director, the ebullient Cabrera conducts many community-oriented performances that draw diverse audiences from around the Bay Area: the Symphony’s annual Día de los Muertos Community Concert, Music for Families concerts, Concerts for Kids, and Adventures in Music performances.

A Surprise Debut

Cabrera made his San Francisco Symphony debut in April 2009, when he was asked with less than twenty-four hours’ notice to conduct Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and two works by Mozart. He joined the Symphony’s conducting staff shortly thereafter.

A Blooming Career

Before coming to the Symphony, Cabrera was associate conductor of the San Francisco Opera from 2005 to 2008. There, he worked on the world premiere of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic and conducted performances of Die Fledermaus, Don Giovanni, Tannhäuser, and The Magic Flute. He has also assisted on productions at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and served as an assistant conductor at the Ravinia, Spoleto (Italy) and Aspen music festivals, and at the Music Academy of the West. In 2002, he was a Herbert von Karajan conducting fellow at the Salzburg Festival.

Over the last several years, Cabrera has made impressive debuts with the San Francisco Ballet (conducting The Nutcracker), the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Orquesta Clásica de Santa Cecilia in Madrid.  In 2014, Cabrera was appointed Music Director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra and has been Music Director of the California Symphony and the New Hampshire Music Festival since 2013. A champion of new music, Cabrera is the co-founder of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME). In September 2012 he conducted ACME in the world premiere of the all-live version of Steve Reich's WTC 9/11 for three string quartets and tape at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City.  In March 2012 as part of the San Francisco Symphony's American Mavericks Festival, he conducted the San Francisco Symphony Chorus and organist Paul Jacobs in the world premiere of Mason Bates's Mass Transmission. Cabrera subsequently conducted the work with the Young People's Chorus of New York City in Carnegie Hall for the American Mavericks tour.

A Commitment to Community

Cabrera is passionate about music education and community outreach. In June 2012, Cabrera led the SFSYO on their eighth European tour. For a series of six performances in Germany, Luxembourg, and Austria, the SFSYO won a 2011-12 ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming of American music on foreign tours. In 2010, Cabrera was honored as a Luminary by the Friends of Mexico Honorary Committee for his contributions to the Bay Area’s Mexican community.


Cabrera earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a master’s degree in conducting from the University of Illinois. He has pursued graduate studies in conducting at Indiana University and the Manhattan School of Music.


Youth Orchestra Concerts

The SFS Youth Orchestra performs three concerts each season, and takes part in special events and celebrations throughout the year.

Find SFS Youth Orchestra Concerts