San Diego State musicians take the big stage at SDSU Live


In 2016, the inaugural SDSU Live Downtown was the largest off-campus, non-athletic event in the university’s history. The sold-out concert raised $40,000 to support scholarships for the school’s music education students. The event’s second edition will be held Sunday, again at Copley Symphony Hall.

This year’s varied repertoire will include works like Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” and Barber’s Violin Concerto. The two-hour concert will be performed by 265 musicians, singers and dancers.

That’s a whole lot of moving parts, but Shannon Kitelinger, San Diego State University’s director of bands, isn’t worried.

“We are a well-oiled machine,” he said. “We’ve worked hard. The marching band begins the concert. Then the Wind Symphony performs. It’s seamless and everything happens quickly.”

The concert is a partnership between SDSU’s School of Music and Dance and the San Diego Symphony. Several members of SDSU’s music faculty are also symphony members.

“We’re grateful to the symphony for allowing us to use this beautiful performance space,” Kitelinger said. “Students get the opportunity to play in a world-class venue. They play so well, they deserve that chance.

“Their eyes light up as soon as they play the first notes in the hall because it’s such a great sound. People may be surprised by the quality of our musicians. That stage lets them show how good they really are.”

Janie Hsiao, a violinist and music education major at SDSU who plays Sunday, called her experience performing at the 2016 event “exhilarating.”

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the massive amount of people we hope will be in the audience,” Hsiao said, “because it shows us just how many people support us, the arts and music education.”

According to data from local school districts, the university estimates that it educates nearly 65 percent of all music teachers in the county. SDSU Live Downtown’s goal is to raise $100,000 for an endowment fund.

“Without this fund, we could lose music education in our schools,” Kitelinger said. “The money spent on tickets to SDSU Live Downtown will go right to the endowment to help create more music educators. This can have a long-term effect on culture in this area for decades to come.”

In addition to contributing to an important cause, the event promises to be fun and inspiring — even before it starts. Plans for pre-concert music include a jazz duo and ensembles of middle- and secondary-school students.

Kitelinger will conduct the Wind Symphony during the first half of the concert, playing both traditional and contemporary music. One newer piece, Jim Bonney’s 2006 “Threnody,” will feature SDSU dancers performing original choreography.

In honor of the centennial of Bernstein’s birth, the concert’s second half will include two of the famed composer’s works. A 120-person choir and the SDSU Symphony, conducted by Michael Gerdes, will perform Bernstein’s choral classic “Chichester Psalms.”

“ ‘Chichester Psalms’ is slightly more technically challenging to put together,” Hsiao said. “It’s a fantastic piece of work that will showcase both our orchestra and our choirs.”

Another Bernstein gem, “Make Our Garden Grow,” will close the concert. The song — from his operetta “Candide” — will spotlight SDSU’s Master of Fine Arts musical theater department.

“The audience will be captivated,” Kitelinger said. “There will be surprises throughout. We’ll have performers all around the hall surrounding the audience. There will be pieces written within the last 10 years and over 100 years ago. With the marching band, orchestra, singers and dancers, it will satisfy different tastes. And it will be the fastest two hours of your year!”

SDSU Live Downtown

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Jacobs Music Center’s Copley Symphony Hall, 750 B St., downtown

Tickets: $23-$103; $253, VIP passes (includes private reception)

Phone: (619) 594-6031


Wood is a freelance writer.