About the California Symphony

Founded in 1986, California Symphony has been led by Artistic and Music Director Donato Cabrera since 2013. It is distinguished by its innovative programming and for redefining the concert experience. Reaching far beyond its concert series at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, California, the orchestra’s performances have been broadcast nationally on multiple radio series through Classical California (KUSC/KDFC) and the WFMT Radio Network, reaching over 1.5 million listeners across the country. In 2017, California Symphony became the first orchestra with a public statement of a commitment to diversity, and it’s one of just a few orchestras to offer a website that is available in both Spanish and English.

Mission and Vision

California Symphony’s mission is to present engaging and inclusive concert experiences, and to provide music education that inspires and connects people of all ages.

Through world-class performances, supporting emerging composers, and a commitment to community, our vision is to be a leader among orchestras in California and a model for regional orchestras everywhere.

Innovative Education Programs That Make a Difference

California Symphony’s Young American Composer-in-Residence program provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collaborate with the orchestra over three consecutive years to create, rehearse, premiere, and record three major orchestra compositions, one each season. Every Composer-in-Residence has gone on to win top honors and accolades in the field, including the Rome Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Grammy Awards, and more. 

The orchestra’s nationally recognized educational initiative Sound Minds impacts students’ trajectories by providing instruction for violin or cello and musicianship skills. Sound Minds has proven to contribute directly to improved reading and math proficiencies and character development, as students set and achieve goals, learn communication and problem-solving skills, and gain self-confidence. Inspired by the El Sistema program of Venezuela, the program is offered completely free of charge to the students of Downer Elementary School in San Pablo, California.

Through its innovative adult education program Fresh Look: The Symphony Exposed, California Symphony provides lifelong learners a fun-filled introduction to the orchestra and classical music. Led by celebrated educator and California Symphony program annotator Scott Foglesong, these live classes are held over four weeks in the summer annually and are available to stream online year-round.