Booking the performers and heading the board of directors for one of San Diego’s oldest and most respected arts organizations is serious business.
But Leah Rosenthal and Katherine Chapin have good reason to sound doubly giddy when they discuss the La Jolla Music Society’s upcoming 2018-19 season.
Their excitement stems from more than the star-packed lineup, which ranges from Japanese-born violinist Midori and Russian piano sensation Daniil Trifonov to sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Not only does the new season mark the 50th anniversary of the La Jolla Music Society, it will also usher in the debut of the nonprofit arts organization’s new La Jolla home, the $78.5 million Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.
The center will debut with a grand opening weekend, April 5-7, followed by 17 other concerts between April 9 and May 19. All of the April and May performances are being billed as the “Coming Home Festival!” The full schedule and ticket information appear below.
The Conrad, as it is more informally called, will boast several performance spaces. The largest is the 513-seat Baker-Baum Concert Hall, whose namesakes are retired San Diego Gas & Electric CEO Steve Baum and his wife, Brenda Baker.
The Conrad will also house the JAI — named after Joan and Irwin Jacobs — a 2,000-square-foot performance space. The JAI’s configurations can be changed for different performances and light food and drink service will be available. A large courtyard, which intersects the two venues, will be used for informal outdoor performances.
“This is really our opportunity to shine and to introduce ourselves as an even more multifaceted arts organization than we already are,” said Chapin, the society’s board chairman for the past four years. “The launch of our 50th anniversary season and the Conrad go hand-in-hand.”
Accordingly, Director of Programming Leah Rosenthal has pulled out all the stops, booking a wider range of artists across a broader range of disciplines.
“Absolutely,” said Rosenthal, who is now in her 10th year with the organization. “We’re pushing the boundaries this season and really celebrating what we have done and are known for. But everything else has a bit of a twist and a little something new.”
From tap dancing to Danish folk songs
Those twists will be readily apparent, starting with the season-opening Oct. 3 performance at downtown San Diego’s Balboa Theatre. There, the Wynton Marsalis-led Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will team with tap dancer Jared Grimes and street dancer Lil Buck for the West Coast debut of Marsalis’ animals-inspired dance suite, “Spaces.”
In another twist, the Danish String Quartet’s Feb. 8 concert at La Jolla’s TSRI Auditorium will be followed Feb. 9 at the same venue with their performance of traditional Nordic folk music. And on Feb. 10, the quartet will perform classical and folk favorites at Barrio Logan’s basileIE Gallery, where Danish beer will be provided to attendees by Mikkeller Brewing.
On May 4, author, actor and Pink Martini singer Storm Large — whose solo albums include “Ladylike Side One” and “Storm and Her Dirty Mouth” — will perform songs by Cole Porter, Lou Reed and others at the Baker-Baum Concert Hall with her own band, Le Bonheur. On May 11 and 12, Large returns to the same venue to present “Crazy Enough,” her autobiographical musical.
In between Marsalis and Large will come performances by such varied artists as the Joffrey Ballet, Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi, Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and Pilobolus Dance Theater.
“A 50th anniversary is a landmark for any organization and this launches us into next chapter of our life,” Rosenthal said.
“What we’ll be able to do when the Conrad opens will allow people to see a different side of us. We’ll remain true to our core of classical music, jazz and dance, but this new building allows us to dig deeper and explore musical genres we haven’t been able to in the past.
“It’s even more exciting to think of future seasons. Because we’ll have so much more we can work with, thanks to our incredible board and all the people who have made the Conrad a reality.”
New art center a necessity
The La Jolla Music Society board learned in mid-2012 that its longtime La Jolla home for concerts, Sherwood Auditorium, would be torn down in 2017 so that the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego could build more gallery space at its La Jolla location. Sherwood was also the longtime home of SummerFest, the La Jolla Music Society’s annual chamber-music festival, whose 2018 season runs Aug. 3 to Aug. 24.
“At the time, it was potentially devastating news for us that Sherwood was being demolished,” said board chairman Chapin. “We decided to take a really big risk — and a huge leap of faith — by saying we were going to build a performing arts center and raise the money for it. In just a few short years, our big risk is paying off for us. We’re on very firm financial footing.”
The La Jolla Music Society has been conducting a nationwide search to replace Kristin Lancino, who unexpectedly resigned from her her position as president and artistic director in January. According to Chapin, the organization will use the Conrad for performances for about a third of each year and rent it out to other arts organizations and concert promoters in the off-season.
“It’s especially exciting for us that the opening of the Conrad coincides with our 50th anniversary,” Chapin said.
“We’re building the Conrad for all of San Diego to enjoy as a home for culture and entertainment. And now that we’ll have a much larger stage to play on — make that, several stages — we’ll be able to expand our audience and ensure we are serving the cultural demographics of San Diego.”
La Jolla Music Society 50th anniversary season
Subscription packages go on sale Monday. . Single tickets for all events included in the subscription packages go on sale Aug. 6. Tickets and more information are available from the La Jolla Music Society ticket services office at (858) 459-3728 and online at LJMS.org.
Oct. 3: “Spaces” by Wynton Marsalis, featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and dancers Lil Buck and Jared Grimes. 8 p.m. Balboa Theatre. ($30-$99).
Oct. 18: Pianist Seong-Jin Cho performs J.S. Bach, Schubert, Chopin & Mussorgsky. 8 p.m. The Auditorium at TSRI. ($35-$85).
Nov. 10: Pilobolus Dance Theater performs “Shadowland.” 2 and 8 p.m. Spreckels Theatre. ($20-$75).
Jan. 20: Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes performs Schumann, Janáček & Bartók. 6 p.m. The Auditorium at TSRI. ($35-$85).
Feb. 8: Danish String Quartet performs Haydn, Mozart, Widmann & Nielsen. 8 p.m. The Auditorium at TSRI. ($35-$85).
Feb. 9: An Evening of Nordic Folk Music with the Danish String Quartet. 8 p.m. The Auditorium at TSRI. ($35-$85).
Feb. 10: Sunday Skål! featuring the Danish String Quartet. 3 p.m. basileIE Gallery. ($39).
Feb. 16: “Jazz in the Key of Ellison,” with Nicholas Payton, Nona Hendryx, Will Downing, Quiana Lynell and the Andy Farber Orchestra. 8 p.m. Balboa Theatre. ($25-59).
Feb. 22: Pianist Sir András Schiff performs J.S. Bach, Bartók, Janáček & Schumann. 8 p.m. (Balboa Theatre). ($35-$85).
March 8: The Joffrey Ballet performs Justin Peck’s “In Creases” to a live score by Philip Glass, plus dances by Alexander Ekman, Nicholas Blanc. 8 p.m. Civic Theatre. ($29-$89).
March 10: Violinist Bomsori Kim performs Beethoven, Sibelius, Wieniawski, Ravel & Saint-Saëns. 3 p.m. The Auditorium at TSRI. ($38).
March 26 and March 27: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater 8 p.m. Jacobs Music Center’s Copley Symphony Hall. ($29-$99).
March 29: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. 8 p.m. Balboa Theatre. ($25-$75).
April 5 to April 7: Grand Opening Weekend of The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center. (Artists to be announced.)
April 9: Jerusalem Quartet performs Haydn, Debussy and Beethoven. 8 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($35-$85).
April 12: Violinist Midori & pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet perform Schumann, Fauré, Debussy & Enescu. 8 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($35-85).
April 13: Live taping of NPR’s “From the Top,” featuring top pre-college classical musicians. 6 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($28-$68).
April 14: Pianist George Li performs Beethoven and Liszt. 3 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($38).
April 17: Pianist Daniil Trifonov performs Beethoven, Schumann and Prokofiev. 8 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($35-$85).
April 18: Anoushka Shankar. 8 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($35-$85).
April 24: Chris Thile. 8 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($35-$85).
April 25: Violinist Gil Shaham and pianist Akira Eguchi perform Kreisler, Wheeler, Dorman, J.S. Bach & Franck. 8 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($35-$85).
April 26: Matthew Halls conducts the San Diego Symphony in works by J.S. Bach and Handel. 8 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($35-85).
April 27: Hiromi. 8 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($35-$85).
May 3: Pianist Garrick Ohlsson performs Brahms. 8 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($35-$85).
May 4: Storm Large and Le Bonheur. 8 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($35-$85).
May 9: Screening of “The Triplets of Belleville,” featuring Le Terrible Orchestre de Belleville performing the film’s original score. 8 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($28-$68).
May 10: Cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han perform J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Debussy and Britten. 8 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($35-$85).
May 11 and May 12: Storm Large’s “Crazy Enough,” an autobiographical musical. 8 p.m (May 11), 3 p.m. (May 12), Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($28-$68).
May 19: Winner of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. 3 p.m. Baker-Baum Concert Hall. ($38).
1:25 p,m, July 8: The surname of La Jolla Music Society Director of programming Leah Rosenthal was misspelled in the original version of this article.