La Jolla Music Society cancels SummerFest concert after cello star Alisa Weilerstein tests positive for COVID

Alisa Weilerstein, world-renowned cellist
World-renowned cellist Alisa Weilerstein last performed at La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest on Sunday afternoon. She informed the La Jolla Music Society of her positive COVID-19 test result on Monday night.
(Courtesy of Marco Borggreve)

The cellist, who had been scheduled for a concert Thursday at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, last performed with the La Jolla Music Society on Sunday. The society says it’s testing all staff, crew and musicians


The La Jolla Music Society canceled its Tuesday night SummerFest concert, part of its annual three-week chamber-music celebration, after one of its star musicians tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.

Alisa Weilerstein, world-renowned cellist and wife of San Diego Symphony conductor Rafael Payare, performed at a 3 p.m. Summerfest concert on Sunday — her sixth and final concert at this year’s edition. She had also been scheduled to perform at the festival’s upcoming Friday finale, but bowed out after receiving her test result.

Weilerstein informed the La Jolla Music Society of her positive test result on Monday night. That set into motion a series of changes and decisions that affect the society and its plans for the rest of the week, as well as a Thursday concert at the Hollywood Bowl by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Weilerstein was next scheduled to perform Thursday at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, replacing Spanish cellist Pablo Ferrández, who had to cancel due to visa issues. She was still listed on the Hollywood Bowl’s website as of 7 a.m. Wednesday. However, the website now lists Robert deMaine as the cellist for Thursday’s Bowl concert.

La Jolla Music Society began extensive testing of all its staff, stage crew and musicians on Tuesday afternoon. The results of those tests, which will be available Wednesday, will determine how SummerFest proceeds with its final 2021 concerts Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

“Because of Alisa’s positive test, we are administering COVID tests to 100 percent of our staff and crew,” society CEO and President Todd Schultz told the Union-Tribune on Tuesday afternoon.

The company Sameday Health is administering the tests.

“Those test results will come back Wednesday morning, and our hope is Alisa is an isolated case,” Schultz said. “If all the tests come back negative, we’ll know that she is an isolated case, and we can proceed with SummerFest. If they don’t come back negative, then well have to regroup.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the society announced that the test results had all come back negative and the concluding three days of this year’s SummerFest will go ahead as scheduled.

Multiple tests were administered to musicians and staff members after cellist Alisa Weilerstein tested positive Monday, a day after her most recent SummerFest performance

Aug. 18, 2021

Weilerstein, who lives in San Diego with her husband and daughter, issued a statement on social media Wednesday morning:

“Well, I’ve officially joined the club no one wants to join. On Monday night, I tested positive with a breakthrough case of COVID-19. Thankfully (and because of the vaccine), I have very mild symptoms, and my family has all tested negative. I continue to follow CDC protocol and am self-isolating at home. Of course, this means that sadly I will not be able to perform with my dear friends, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, Maria Dueñas, and Sergio Tiempo at the Hollywood Bowl, nor will I be able to perform at the closing concert of La Jolla SummerFest. However, health and safety must always come first, and I look forward to seeing everyone again very soon. In the meantime, please stay safe and well out there!”

The La Jolla Music Society canceled its SummerFest concert Tuesday night "out of an abundance of caution.”
(Photo by Darren Bradley)

The society disclosed the 39-year-old cellist’s COVID status in an email it sent out late Tuesday afternoon to ticket holders announcing that Tuesday night’s SummerFest concert had been canceled “out of an abundance of caution.”

The email reads, in part: “Last night we learned that one of our SummerFest musicians — cellist Alisa Weilerstein — tested positive for COVID. She was previously vaccinated, and her symptoms are very mild, for which we’re grateful. We also understand that her family has tested negative, as has our (SummerFest) Music Director and her close collaborator Inon Barnatan.

“To ensure that this is an isolated case among our LJMS artists, we are currently administering COVID tests to every musician, staff member and stagehand, as well as many artist hosts and board members. The early antigen tests have been coming back negative, and the PCR test results will come in tomorrow morning. Out of an abundance of caution, as we await the PCR test results, we have chosen to cancel tonight’s performance.”

Schultz stressed that the society has rigorously followed all state and county health guidelines during the pandemic, which saw the 2020 edition of SummerFest transformed into an entirely online event. If all goes well, he said, the society will try to reschedule Tuesday night’s canceled concert to a daytime performance later this week. Refunds are available at point of purchase.

Weilerstein performed alongside Payare and the San Diego Symphony at the Aug. 6 gala opening concert of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, the orchestra’s new $85 million outdoor concert venue. Payare is not scheduled to perform there again until October. Weilerstein’s next scheduled concert is Sept. 13 in London, according to her website.


3:01 p.m. Aug. 18, 2021: This article has been updated with a statement from Alisa Weilerstein.

5:23 p.m. Aug. 18, 2021: This article has been updated to indicate that, on Wednesday afternoon, La Jolla Music Society announced the concluding three days of this year’s SummerFest will go ahead as scheduled.

3:01 p.m. Aug. 18, 2021: This article has been updated to indicate that, after testing positive for COVID-19, Alisa Weilerstein has been replaced by fellow cellist Robert deMaine for Thursday’s Hollywood Bowl concert by the Gustavo Dudamel-led Los Angeles Philharmonic.