To enhance cultural life and engagement by presenting and producing a wide range of programming of the highest artistic quality, and to make The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center a vibrant and inclusive hub.
La Jolla Music Society carries forward a distinguished tradition reaching back to the Musical Arts Society of La Jolla founded in 1941 by Nikolai Sokoloff, former conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra. Together with other musically-minded La Jolla residents including Ellen and Roger Revelle, Sokoloff and the Music Society commissioned twenty new works between 1949 and 1968, presenting the premières in the auditorium at La Jolla High School.
In 1968, the La Jolla Chamber Players was formally incorporated by a small group of local musicians with John Garvey conducting. Joan Brown was the new group’s first Board President.
Within three years, the group’s official name was changed to La Jolla Chamber Orchestra, which then presented a total of six concerts and recitals each year. The Board was active in all aspects of the Orchestra’s administration, from programming and publicity to fundraising and ticketing. In the Orchestra’s formative years, the only employees of the organization were orchestra members, and ticket prices for the original Sherwood Series (renamed the Revelle Series in 1998) ranged from $5.50 to $7.00 per concert. The Friends of the La Jolla Chamber Orchestra formed to coordinate volunteer participation in the group’s activities.
Throughout the next few years, La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s operating budget grew to $175,000, and the Society was one of the only arts organizations in San Diego County operating “in the black.” In 1980, the idea of presenting a summer music festival was envisioned by then-Musical Director Peter Eros. The Board felt that the project was too large for them to tackle without outside help, and the proposal was shelved.
The following year, Sharon LeeMaster was hired as La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s first Executive Director, and with a $220,000 operating budget for the year, Board President Dr. Merrell Olesen and the Board committed to bringing the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival to La Jolla during the summer of 1982. Presentation of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival would continue for three years.
Between 1982 and 1986, the Society’s offices moved twice (first to Hotel La Jolla – now the Empress Hotel – and ultimately to the El Patio Building, where the offices currently reside), the operating budget doubled, and the La Jolla Chamber Orchestra was dissolved. La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s staff grew as well, with Executive Director Geoffrey Brooks leading a full-time staff of four and an intern. During these years, the Music Society built its reputation for high-quality concerts on three series named for the venues in which they were presented: the Sherwood Series (Museum of Contemporary Arts in La Jolla), the Old Globe Series (Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park), and the East County Series (East County Performing Arts Center in El Cajon).
In 1986, a crucial step was taken toward the future of the Society: La Jolla Chamber Music Society presented its first SummerFest music festival, under the direction of Board Chair Dr. Joy Frieman, Musical Director Heiichiro Ohyama, and SummerFest Chair Brenda Baker. The first two-week festival featured internationally-renowned musicians, including Miriam Fried, David Golub, Jeffrey Kahane, Ralph Kirshbaum, Anton Kuerti, and David Shifrin. It was a great critical and financial success.
For the next several years, the Society’s growth continued, presenting sold-out concerts with long waiting lists and posting budget surpluses under Executive Director Neale Pearl. During these years of continued growth, La Jolla Chamber Music Society presented its first House Concert, and Board members Lois Kohn and Arlene Hecht introduced the ideas of three-year commitments from donors (now the Medallion Society) and a concert to benefit SummerFest held during the Winter Season (now called WinterFest). The Music Society continued to present world-class musicians, including Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma, and the Board began discussions about presenting more diverse programs, acquiring a permanent performance venue, sponsorship of young artists; and outreach to school. The series were expanded to include the Sherwood Series, the Celebrity Series (initiated in 1987), the International Orchestra Series (initiated in 1988), and the Young Artists of Excellence Series (initiated in 1991 to “present tomorrow’s stars to today,” and now called the Discovery Series). A distinctive logo was created, the Endowment Fund was established, and the Society’s operating budget topped $1,000,000 for the first time.
New series were created in 1997 and 1998 – the Prodigy Series (growing out of the Discovery Series) and the Piano Series – and the Sherwood Series officially became known as the Revelle Series in acknowledgement of Ellen Revelle’s long association with the Society as well as her extraordinary $500,000 gift to the Society’s Endowment Fund. In recognition for their dedication and accomplishments on behalf of La Jolla Chamber Music Society, Ellen Revelle and Lois Kohn were named “Honorary Directors” for life.
In 1999, the Music Society adopted the Community Music Center, expanding the outreach begun nearly a decade earlier, to provide music education and performance opportunities for at-risk elementary school children in Southeast San Diego. Recognized by the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities, the Community Music Center reaches out to a new generation in an underserved community. During that season, the Board created the Medallion Society, a three-year giving program, as a way of providing long-term financial stability for the organization. SummerFest ’99 brought a new partnership with the University Art Gallery at UCSD and the revival of the tradition of commissioning new works, this time for SummerFest.
Throughout the next several years, La Jolla Music Society continued to experience growth under Board President Peggy Preuss. In 2003, to reflect the changing demographics of San Diego and to allow for expanded programming possibilities, La Jolla Chamber Music Society once again changed its name to La Jolla Music Society. While the foundations of the Music Society – presenting high-quality concerts and encouraging an appreciation of music throughout San Diego – had not changed, La Jolla Music Society would continue to evolve. Also in 2003, the Society created the North County Series, based in Carlsbad, to better serve all of San Diego county. In 2005, the newly-renovated Stephen and Mary Birch North Park Theatre became a presenting venue, making the Society’s offering even more accessible. In 2006, a Jazz series was introduced, presenting a selection of non-classical offerings to serve a completely new audience.
Also in 2006, La Jolla Music Society celebrated the twentieth anniversary season of SummerFest, chaired by Dolly Woo, with a special commemorative program and an opening night celebration featuring Martin?’s “Sinfonetta La Jolla,” originally commissioned for the Musical Arts Society of La Jolla in 1950.
The three-week SummerFest Anniversary Season, under the direction of SummerFest Musical Director Cho-Liang Lin, included performances by SummerFest alumni from the last twenty years including former Music Directors Heiichiro Ohyama, David Finckel, and Wu Han, as well as internationally-renowned performers such as André-Michel Schub, Chee-Yun, Yefim Bronfman, Gil Shaham, Joseph Kalichstein, and Paul Neubauer.
In the 2007-08 Season, the Society launched a highly-regarded and successful three-performance Dance Series at the 700-plus seat North Park Theatre. The inaugural Dance Series included performances of Tango Fire by Estampas Porteñas of Argentina, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and the José Limón Dance Company celebrating the 100th birthday of founder José Limón.
The 40th Anniversary Season secured La Jolla Music Society’s position in the arts community with its presentations of some of classical music’s giants: Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma. The 40th Season was the Season of Celebrations with our 40th Anniversary Gala, coinciding with the 60th Anniversary of the Founding of Israel and the 20th Anniversary of The Commission of Arts & Culture of San Diego, and our presentation of the 50th Anniversary of San Diego’s Family Guitar Quartet, The Romeros, as well as the Centennial of Olivier Messiaen’s birth with the performance by Christopher Taylor performing Messiaen’s famous solo piano work, Vingt Regards sur L’Enfant Jesus. The Encore of our Dance Series featured two recently televised troupes, Shen Wei, choreographer of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, and Pilobolus Dance Theatre, performers at the 2007 Academy Awards.
La Jolla Music Society currently has a staff of 30, including fifteen part-time teachers for the Community Music Center, and an operating budget of over four million dollars. La Jolla Music Society’s annual events are an important part of San Diego’s cultural life; they continue to reflect the careful planning and fiscal conservatism, combined with imaginative and innovative programming, which have formed the basis of La Jolla Music Society’s success.
BOARD PRESIDENTS & CHAIRS
|Mrs. Joan Brown, President||1968-1973|
|Ms. Anne Mendelsohn, President||1973-1974|
|Mr. Tom Ryan, President||1974-1975|
|Ms. Abby Silverman, President||1975-1976|
|Ms. Viviane Pratt, President||1976-1978|
|Ms. Diana Hewett, President||1978-1979|
|Dr. R. Merrel Olesen, President||1979-1982|
|Mr. Kenneth Poovey, President||1982-1985|
|Dr. Joy Frieman, President||1985-1988|
|Mrs. Marie Olesen, President||1988-1990|
|Ms. Brenda Baker, President||1990-1992|
|Mr. Robert Edmunds, President||1992-1994|
|Mr. Jack Sipe, President||1994-1996|
|Mr. Paul Meyer, President||1996-1998|
|Dr. Bill Miller, President||1998-2000|
|Mrs. Peggy Preuss, President||2000-2002|
|Ms. Sue Hodges, Chair||2002-2005|
|Dr. Joy Frieman, Chair||2005-2007|
|Mrs. Karen Brailean, Chair||2007-2009|
|Ms. Leigh P. Ryan, Chair||2009-2011|
|Mr. Clifford Schireson, Chair||2011-2013|
|Dr. Martha Dennis, Chair||2013-2015|
|Katherine Chapin, Chair||2015-2019|
|Steve Baum, Chair||2019-current|