MusicWise with Donato Cabrera

By California Symphony

Last Updated September 22, 2020

A Donato Cabrera Exclusive 

As part of a continued commitment to promoting engagement and connection with audiences, California Symphony Music Director Donato Cabrera has announced the launch of a new online series, MusicWise – Conversations about Art and Culture with Donato Cabrera.

Cabrera will host MusicWise on Tuesdays at 1pm PST on Facebook Live, featuring interviews with engaging artists and civic leaders who influence and shape the cultural landscape. With each guest, Cabrera will explore their background and upbringing, and how these touchstones influence their projects and initiatives, past and present. Guests will showcase and share their favorite performances and recordings, as well as responding to selected questions from the Facebook Live audience. 

Upcoming guests include pianist Maria Radutu on April 14; timpanist David Herbert on April 21; composer Katherine Balch on April 28; violinist Alexi Kenney on May 5; and violist Gerhard Marschner on May 12. More information about each guest is below. 

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Tune in for your favorite artists

April 14 – Watch MusicWise with Maria Radutu Decca Records and classical pianist, Maria Radutu, joins Donato from Vienna, Austria, on Tuesday, April 14. Maria is well-known for her concept albums, breaking style boundaries and designing her programs based on thrilling emotions. She uses storytelling on stage to create a strong bonding to her audience. Maria has been a soloist for both the Las Vegas Philharmonic and California Symphony.
We will talk about her background, past projects and recordings, as well as her entrepreneurial approach and success that is particularly poignant and appropriate for the new reality in which artists are now findings themselves.

April 21 – Watch MusicWise with David Herbert David Herbert is currently principal timpani of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a post he has held since July 2013 after being appointed by Music Director Riccardo Muti. Prior to joining the CSO, he served as principal timpanist of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), where Donato worked with him for many years, and the New World Symphony. He is widely considered a leader of cutting-edge solo timpani repertoire, accomplishing many commissions and world premiere performances every year. Herbert has been featured as a guest artist at many of North America’s premier ensembles including the Pittsburgh Symphony and St. Louis Symphony; with the latter orchestra he made his professional solo debut after winning its young artist competition in 1991. Since then, he has appeared as timpani concerto soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, Shanghai Symphony, Sun Valley Summer Symphony, National Repertory Orchestra, and the New World Symphony, with which he made his Lincoln Center debut with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting.

April 28 Watch MusicWise with Katherine Balch Katherine Balch writes music that aims to capture the intimacy of existence through sound.  Often influenced by extra-musical arts, sciences, and literature, she seeks a heterogenous yet formally cohesive aesthetic driven by attention to detail, textural lyricism, and playful sonic investigations. Katherine’s work has been commissioned and performed by the Tokyo, Minnesota, Oregon, Indianapolis, and Albany Symphony Orchestras, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Ensemble Intercontemporain, the London Sinfonietta, the JACK, Argus, and Aizuri Quartets, International Contemporary Ensemble, wild Up, Contemporaneous, and Concert Artists Guild, among others, in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall, Wiener Konzerthaus (Vienna), and Suntory Hall (Tokyo). Upcoming 2020-2021 season highlights include a new work for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella Series as part of their Carnegie Hall tour, and a song cycle commissioned by the Brooklyn Arts Song Society responding to Schumann’s Dichterliebe. She has just completed her three-year residency as the Young American Composer in Residence for the California Symphony and has worked closely with Donato on all three of her commissions for the orchestra.

May 5 – Watch MusicWise with Alexi Kenney is the recipient of a 2016 Avery Fisher Career Grant and a 2020 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award,and has been named “a talent to watch” by the New York Times, which also noted his “architect’s eye for structure and space and a tone that ranges from the achingly fragile to full-bodied robustness.” Alexi has performed as soloist with the Detroit, Indianapolis, Columbus, Jacksonville, Santa Fe, Portland, California, and Amarillo symphonies, and in recital on Carnegie Hall’s ‘Distinctive Debuts’ series, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, at the Dame Myra Hess Concerts in Chicago, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and Jordan Hall in Boston. He is winner of the 2013 Concert Artists Guild Competition and laureate of the 2012 Menuhin Competition. Alexi has been profiled by Strings magazine and the New York Times, written for The Strad, and has been featured on Performance Today, WQXR-NY’s Young Artists Showcase, WFMT-Chicago, and NPR’s From the Top. Alexi has been a soloist with Donato for both the California Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic and was a member of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra when Donato was its music director.

May 12 – Watch MusicWise with Gerhard Marschner Gerhard Marschner won the audition for a tutti position with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra at the age of 19. Three years later in 2007 Gerhard became a member of the Vienna Philharmonic and in the same year he advanced to section leader of the violas. In December 2016, he won the audition for the position of principal violist, which he took up in September 2017. In addition to his orchestral duties, Gerhard Marschner is a highly sought-after soloist and chamber musician. He has toured in Japan, China, Korea, the US and numerous European countries. Among his chamber music partners are Rudolf Buchbinder, Stefan Vladar, Magda Amara, Andrey Baranov, Harriet Krijgh, Midori, Rainer Honeck and many other internationally acclaimed musicians. Donato met Gerhard in 2002 when Donato was awarded a conducting fellowship from the American Austrian Foundation for the 2002 Salzburg Festival.

May 19 – Watch MusicWise with Roy Kaiser Artistic Director at Nevada Ballet Roy Kaiser began tap dancing at age four and started his professional dance career by age seven. Together with his four brothers, he performed on television and across the United States, including the 1967 World’s Fair in New York. He began his ballet training at age 17 under the guidance of Karen Irvin and earned a scholarship to the San Francisco Ballet School and later with the School of Pennsylvania Ballet. An active member of the dance community, Roy is often invited as a guest instructor and has served on numerous dance panels, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Princess Grace Foundation. He also served on the 2002 jury of the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria and was a member of the artistic committee for the New York Choreographic Institute. He currently holds the title of Artistic Director Emeritus for Pennsylvania Ballet.

May 26 – MusicWise with Nancy Uscher, Dean of College of Fine Arts, UNLV
Dr. Nancy J. Uscher is Dean of the College of Fine Arts and presidential professor of music. She oversees seven departments and schools, eight curated gallery spaces, including the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art; six theatre venues, and the UNLV Performing Arts Center. A concert violist, Dr. Uscher earned her bachelor’s degree in music at the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY, her master’s degree in music at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and her Ph.D. from New York University. She also holds a certificate of advanced study and A.R.C.M. from the Royal College of Music in London and also studied at The Juilliard School in New York City.

June 2 – Joseph Horowitz, American Culture Historian
Joseph Horowitz is an author, concert producer, and teacher. He is one of the most prominent and widely published writers on topics in American music. As an orchestral administrator and advisor, he has been a pioneering force in the development of thematic programming and new concert formats. Horowitz’s ten books — including “Understanding Toscanini: How He Became an American Culture-God and Helped Create a New Audience for Old Music” (a finalist for the 1987 National Book Critics Circle Award) and “Classical Music in America: A History” (named one of the best books of 2005 by The Economist) — offer a detailed history and analysis of American symphonic culture, its achievements, challenges, and prospects for the future.

June 9MusicWise with Lucia Micarelli, Violinist and Actress
Born in Queens, New York, Lucia was immersed in the arts by the age of three, diligently practicing dance, piano, and violin. It didn’t take long for Lucia to discover her passion and greatest talent was the violin, which quickly became her main focus. Currently, Lucia has just finished her first PBS concert special which has been airing throughout the US in 2018. This PBS event is an eclectic journey through her many musical influences – from classical to jazz to traditional fiddle music and Americana – all bound together by her trademark emotional vulnerability and technical wizardry.

June 16MusicWise with Mark Shunock, Mark Shunock is the creator and host of MONDAYS DARK, Vegas’ premiere variety show for a cause. Twice a month he gathers an eclectic cast of guests including musical acts and stars from Hollywood and The Strip for 90 minutes of chat, entertainment and a lot of laughs. Shunock was a former member of the Canadian Hockey League. After his hockey days ended, he spent almost 10 years living in New York City performing on America’s premiere stages. He earned a Best Supporting Actor Helen Hayes Award nomination for his performance as Timon in Disney’s The Lion King. He recently starred in the smash hit Rock of Ages playing at the Venetian/Palazzo and as the MC in the sexy smash Magic Mike Live at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. He is currently the in-arena host for the Vegas Golden Knights of the National Hockey League and for Bob Arum’s Top Rank Boxing.

June 23MusicWise with Chefs James Trees and Giovanni Mauro, Music and culinary worlds collide when Donato, James and Gio share their craft and their passion for great food and music. Born and raised in Las Vegas, James Trees has had a distinguished culinary career, having worked in five star restaurants and with top chefs including Luke Palladino, Bradley Ogden, and Michael Mina. Trees opened Esther’s Kitchen in 2017 to serve up his own unique blend of elegant Italian comfort food. Chef Giovanni “Gio” Mauro is the owner of Old School Pizzeria in North Las Vegas, an original pizza concept dedicated to Mauro’s “respect for ingredients” philosophy. At Monzú, he presents a unique and authentic pizza experience to Las Vegas, sharing recipes cultivated from his proud Sicilian heritage.

June 30 MusicWise with Myron Martin, As president and CEO of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Myron Martin brings the world’s most revered and celebrated entertainers to Las Vegas. Throughout his career, he has produced and presented a variety of well-regarded productions including first-run touring attractions and internationally acclaimed performers in music, theater and dance.

July 7MusicWise with Laura Jackson, Laura Jackson is described by audiences as “passionate, personable, engaging, innovative, charismatic, musical, and effervescent.” Now in her eleventh season as Music Director and Conductor of the Reno Philharmonic, she continues to win praise for her artistry, leadership, innovative programming, and creative community engagement.

Her passion and drive have helped the Reno Philharmonic reach new heights with engaging composer-in-residence projects, vibrant performances of traditional repertoire, and collaborations that captivate the enthusiasm of the local community as well as the symphonic industry nationwide.

July 21MusicWise with Elise Caluwaerts, Thanks to her versatility and captivating personality, soprano Elise Caluwaerts has grown into a renowned soloist both in Belgium and abroad. Her love for challenging repertoire – ranging from opera to multidisciplinary projects – led to various creations and remarkable collaborations with internationally renowned composers and ensembles. During the Sydney Festival 2016, she sang the highly acclaimed role of Lei in Pascal Dusapin’s chamber opera Passion. “Belgian soprano Elise Caluwaerts impressed with her supple sense of line and strength, displaying a soaring, pure-toned top register and richly coloured lower register” (The Australian).

August 4MusicWise with Camille Zamora, In collaboration with artists ranging from Plácido Domingo to Sting, Camille has garnered acclaim for her “dramatic and nuanced” (The New York Times) interpretations of repertoire ranging from Mozart to tango. She is known for her “dignity and glowing sound” (The New York Times) in “luminous, transcendently lyrical” performances (Opera News) that “combine gentility and emotional fire” (The Houston Chronicle).

Recent seasons have featured performances with Yo-Yo Ma at the US Capitol, her Kennedy Center recital debut, and seven new operatic roles, including the tour de force double-bill of La voix humaine and I Pagliacci, which was cited as “Favorite Performance of the Year” by The Columbus Dispatch.

August 11MusicWise with Charlie Albright, Hailed as “among the most gifted musicians of his generation” with a “dazzling natural keyboard affinity” who “made quite an impression” by the Washington Post, American pianist/composer/improviser Charlie Albright has been praised for his “jaw-dropping technique and virtuosity meshed with a distinctive musicality” by The New York Times, and his “extravagance that had showmanship but never felt cheap” with his “ease and smoothness that refuses to airbrush the music, but animates it from within” by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

August 18MusicWise with Juan Pablo Contreras and Viet Cuong, Juan Pablo Contreras (b. 1987, Guadalajara, Mexico) is a Latin GRAMMY®-nominated composer and Universal Music recording artist who combines Western classical and Mexican folk music in a single soundscape. His works have been performed by major orchestras such as the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, the Mexico City and UNAM Philharmonics, and the orchestras of Boca del Río, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Aguascalientes, Sinaloa, Oaxaca, State of Mexico, and Jalisco in Mexico; the Salta and Córdoba Symphonies in Argentina; the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela; and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Victoria Bach Festival Orchestra, and the Waco Symphony Orchestra in the United States.

August 25MusicWise with cellist Nathan Chan, Cellist Nathan Chan discovered his talent for music at an early age through conducting. Before he was two, he could emulate the styles of conductors he saw on music videos such as Seiji Ozawa, Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein, using a chopstick as a baton. As a toddler, his imitations were so intuitively musical that he caught the attention of San Francisco Opera Assistant Conductor Sara Jobin. Under her eye, he made his debut as a conductor at age three, leading the San Jose Chamber Orchestra in a set of Mozart variations, despite not yet being able to read music. This was followed by a guest appearance with the Palo Alto Philharmonic a year later, conducting the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Initially drawn to the sounds of low strings, he began formal music lessons with cellist Irene Sharp at age five. He later studied with Sieun Lin at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

September 1MusicWise with cellist Oliver Herbert, Cellist Oliver Herbert performed Brahms Double Concerto with California Symphony back in February. He rejoined Music Director Donato Cabrera for MusicWise to talk about their shared history at the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and Oliver’s newfound passion for merging film and music. Herbert is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music where he studied with Carter Brey and Peter Wiley.  Performing a wide range of repertoire, his recent solo and recital appearances include debuts with the San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic, and Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, to name a few.

September 8MusicWise with soprano Monica Yunus, Equally at home in concert, recital or on the operatic stage, Monica Yunus is quickly establishing herself as one of America’s most promising young sopranos. She has been called “especially winning” by The New York Times, and commended for her “rich and sensuous voice [that] was utterly captivating.”

September 15MusicWise with Matthias Bartolomey of BartolomeyBittman, Donato sits down with cellist Matthias Bartolomey cello of progressive string duo BartolomeyBittman to talk inspiration, composition, and creativity.

September 22MusicWise with composer Michael Torke, Michael Torke’s music has been commissioned by such orchestras as The Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the San Francisco Symphony; by such ballet companies as New York City Ballet, Alvin Ailey, and the National Ballet of Canada; by such opera companies as the Metropolitan Opera, Théâtre du Châtelet, and the English National Opera; by such large ensembles as the London Sinfonietta, Lontano, and De Volharding; and such small ensembles as the Smith, Ying, and Amstel Quartets.

MusicWise – Conversations about Art and Culture with Donato Cabrera takes place on Tuesdays at 1pm PT on Facebook Live. Follow Cabrera on Facebook to be notified when he goes live at