Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center to open with Seal, Hilary Hahn, SummerFest alums

Four-time Grammy Award-winning singer Seal will headline the second night of the grand opening weekend of the La Jolla Music Society’s new Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in April.
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA)

The La Jolla Music Society is pulling out all the stops for April’s jubilee grand-opening weekend of its $78.5 million Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.

The cornerstone of the nonprofit organization’s ongoing 50th anniversary season, the new center’s opening will feature concerts April 5-7 by an all-star lineup of classical music, jazz, pop and dance artists that is being publicly announced today.

The complete lineup and ticket information appear below.

Confirmed performers range from Grammy Award-winning singer Seal, the Miró Quartet and ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro to violin star Hilary Hahn, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and neo-swing band The Hot Sardines, whose April 7 show is already sold out.

The diversity of artists is designed to showcase both the society’s annual programming eclecticism and the new center itself.

The Conrad, as it more informally called, houses the 513-seat Baker-Baum Concert Hall, named after retired SDG&E CEO Steve Baum and his wife, Brenda Baker. It also contains the JAI, a 2,000-square-foot performance space named after Joan and Irwin Jacobs. A large courtyard that intersects the two venues will host informal outdoor performances.

“We want people to immerse themselves in the center, to show them who we will be in the future, and to have the opening test the limits of everything this center can do,” said La Jolla Music Society Director of Programming Leah Rosenthal, who began planning the gala opening lineup two years ago.

Added David Kitto, the society’s interim president: “We want the venue itself to be a performer. Highlighting the capabilities of the venue is very much a part of the plan.”

The April 5 opening concert will feature at least 10 artists. They will perform music by Bach, Brahms, The Beatles, Stravinsky and more, along with the world première of four-time Grammy-winner Lalo Schifrin’s new piece, which is set to live visual projections by technologist Osman Koç.

There will also be a special April 5 performance by pianist Inon Barnatan, the new music director of the society’s annual SummerFest, and four of his predecessors — violinist Cho-Liang Lin, pianist Wu Han, cellist David Finckel and violist Heiichiro Ohyama.

Saturday’s performance by four-time Grammy-winner Seal will mix hits from his three-decade recording career with songs from his latest album, “Standards,” which is nominated for a 2019 Grammy. He’ll be accompanied by his band and a string quartet.

Peggy Preuss and Sue Wagener are the opening weekend chairs, while Debbie Turner is the opening night jubilee chair. Sheryl Scarano is the chair for the concert by Seal and Susan Hoehn is the chair for the sold-out concert by the Hot Sardines.

The society has already sold 116 three-day jubilee opening weekend ticket packages, priced at $5,000 each, which were bought before any of the weekend’s performers were announced.

“This will be the first time tickets are available to the wider public,” Kitto said.

The center, located in downtown La Jolla Village, was designed by Boston-based Epstein Joslin Architects. The company’s previous projects include the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, the Baltimore Symphony’s Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, Md., and Sonoma State University and the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Weill Hall in Santa Rosa.

The sound designe was done by Yasuhisa Toyota of Tokyo-based Nagata Acoustics. The company has done the sound design or acted as a consultant for for numerous concert halls in and out of Japan, including Kyoto Concert Hall, Disney Hall in Los Angeles and Helsinki Music Centre.

“We’re definitely increasing our staff to make sure we have the best possible opening,” Rosenthal said. “We have hired additional facility staff and we’ll have some contracted staff for the opening weekend.”

Kitto predicted an announcement “within the next couple of months” regarding the selection of the society’s new CEO and president. Last year saw the abrupt resignation of new CEO/president Susan T. Danis, only months after she replaced Kristin Lancino, who herself abruptly reigned in January.

La Jolla Music Society Grand Opening Weekend

Opening night

When: 5:30 p.m. April 5

Featuring: Hilary Hahn, violin; Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano; Jake Shimabukuro, ukulele; ‘Lil Buck, dancer; the Miró Quartet; Inon Barnatan, piano; Heiichiro Ohyama, viola; Cho-Liang Lin, violin; David Finckel, cello; Wu Han, piano.

Tickets: $1,500* per person (includes complimentary valet service, welcoming reception and post-concert reception)

Seal: Live at the Conrad

When: 6:30 p.m. April 6

Tickets: $150 and $250 (performance only); $1,000* (includes premier seating location, complimentary valet service, and post-concert reception); $5,000* (includes premier seating location, complimentary valet service, exclusive post-concert meet-and-greet with Seal and post-concert private reception (limited availability)

Phone: (858) 459-3728


Tickets marked * are only available by calling or emailing La Jolla Music Society’s director of development, Ferdinand Gasang, at (858) 459-3724, ext. 204, or

Twitter @georgevarga