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Portrait of woman in concert hall

ESSAY: Looking back at 2020 in the arts: ‘We need to embrace what we’ve learned’

The San Diego Union Tribune

Leah Rosenthal
December 27, 2020

Leah Rosenthal is the Artistic Director of La Jolla Music Society.

On March 11, 2020, Nordic-folk sensation Dreamers’ Circus took the stage for what was to be a sold-out performance at The Conrad. News of the coronavirus and an impending lockdown was spreading quickly, and out of caution, many of our ticket buyers decided to stay home, likely glued to their devices for the latest update. For those resolute individuals who showed up, it was an evening we will long remember. As the band played, a beautiful and poignant feeling filled the half-empty room. We all knew a night like this might not happen again soon, but little did we know how long this dark period would last.

In the days following the performance, venue after venue shuttered its doors and season after season of iconic presenting organizations canceled indefinitely. It was heartbreaking. It felt as though my world — the world I love and belong to both personally and professionally — was turning upside down. Yet after the initial heartache and shock wore off, I quickly realized we were in this for the long haul. If La Jolla Music Society was going to survive, we needed to get to work.

For all the devastation the virus has caused, it has also galvanized our organization and the entire arts community in a way I have never seen before. This crisis was a catalyst, opening direct channels of communication from the board of directors down to the most junior person on our staff. The invisible wall between presenter, artists and agents dissolved. We received an outpouring of support from our La Jolla Music Society family, which allowed us to continue to move forward.