Festival music director sees much to admire in Tom Nee's legacy

PLYMOUTH — Donato Cabrera, who returns to the Granite State for his third straight summer as music director of the New Hampshire Music Festival, says that one of his goals this year is to focus on the great history of the festival and bring back some of the connection to the community which was one of the hallmarks of the festival under the leadership of Tom Nee, the festival's music director from 1960 to 1992.
''I love hearing stories about him,'' says Cabrera, whose roots are on the West Coast where Nee headed the Department of Music at the University of California at San Diego and conducted the La Jolla Symphony, and is, like Nee, a champion of new and experimental music.
Cabrera, who was born in Pasadena, California and grew up in Nevada, says that many of his contemporaries were students of Nee and shared with him their experiences in learning the art of conducting from Nee.
Cabrera has been the resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and the Wattis Foundation music director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra (SFSYO) since 2009. 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.
''What is striking about Nee and his connection to New Hampshire is the love and connection that the musicians and the audiences felt for him. I think it's important that we learn from that connection and bring back that esprit de corps that he established,'' says Cabrera, who says that his experience in New Hampshire has shown him that there is ''a huge need and love of music in this area'' that keeps the festival a vital part of the Lakes Region.
He says that he is looking forward to then festival's 63rd season, which runs from July 7 through August 6 and has a theme of ''American Landscapes'' and will explore and celebrate American music and the great outdoors.
He says that one of the things that the festival will be bringing back will be "Music in the Mountains", which will provide sunrise, sunset and campground concerts, as well as music in area bars and cafes.
''It's a way of connecting with people and it seems really appropriate for an area with such a beautiful landscape to have music be a part of the experience,'' says Cabrera.
He says that the only time the Music Festival made it into the New York Times was an article written by Jordan Houston in the August 10, 1975 edition. The article, which was headlined "Bach-Packing, or Carrying Music to New Heights", which described the daily routine of a half dozen musicians hiking to Appalachian Mountain Club huts on Mount Washington to give concerts.
In another outreach move the orchestra will be taking part in a special event "Oz with Orchestra" on Monday, July 27 at 7 p.m. at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford in which it will provide music during a showing of the 1939 classic film.
Cabrera says that he is thrilled with the appearance at Meadowbrook, a venue he has wanted to bring the orchestra to ever since he first saw it.
Other outreach activities include Families Making Music programs with students, children and parents and art showing with the Women's Caucus for Art.
Cabrera says the festival has been awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the "Music Unwound" consortium. The grant will support the presentation of the acclaimed 'Dvorak in America' program which features a performance of Dvorak's stirring Symphony No. 9 "From the New World" complemented by multimedia and narration by scholar-writer Joseph Horowitz.
He says that the presentation is fascinating and describes what it means to be an American when it comes to its own style of music.
Cabrera says that the Czech composer lived in America for three years while composing music about the New World and spent a summer in a Bohemian community in Iowa after having been invited there by a student. ''I've visited there. The organ where he played his compositions is still there as s the Bohemian stye restaurant where the meals were served on long wooden tables along with Czech beer.''
Cabrera, who has established an international reputation for his conducting skills, says that he considers himself fortunate to be spending his summers in the lakes and mountains of New Hampshire. That feeling appears to be mutual with friends of the N.H. Music Festival, who say they consider themselves fortunate to have Cabrera as music director.

Detailed concert and ticket information is available at www.nhmf.org.

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Donato Cabrera returns for his third summer as Music Director of the New Hampshire Music Festival. (Courtesy photo)