• Elizabeth Tobias

Riding the New Wave of La Jolla Music Society

Updated: Dec 30, 2019

“Both waves and music share a rhythmic essence: the sea and its waves are silvery, liquid, powerful, and always moving. Like the ocean, music is similarly liquid, unpredictable, and propulsive; just listen to the harmonically divine music of Bach (or Keith Jarrett, who was no doubt inspired by it): their magnificent music has the symmetry of a chambered nautilus, the flow of a perfect wave,” Tom Schnabel.

With their spectacular new $82 million dollar home at The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center on Fay Avenue, La Jolla Music Society has caught a perfect wave.

Baker Baum Concert Hall

At the heart of the complex is the Baker-Baum Concert Hall, the 513-seat performance space. Reminiscent of an old-world opera house but equipped with state-of-the-art architecture and acoustics, experiencing a performance in the Baker-Baum is like soaking in a mythical ocean realm where all of the elements of music merge into a pure sonic life-force.

La Jolla Music Society is ever-evolving and responsive to the changing needs of its community while maintaining the highest standards of excellence in its world-class programming. Since its inception in 1941, and throughout its years, the organization has changed names and locations several times, but has never wavered in its ambition to establish itself in a permanent home. When their last location, The Sherwood Auditorium at MCASD, closed for renovation, the organization’s board decided to make the leap to create their own venue.

Their mission is to enhance the vitality and deepen the cultural life of San Diego by presenting and producing a dynamic range of performing arts for our increasingly diverse community. The 2019-20 season will feature top classical, jazz, dance, World Music artists and more. “This will be the biggest season we’ve ever had, and it will showcase the next step in our evolution,” said Leah Rosenthal, the society’s director of programming.

The National Endowment for the Arts reported that in 2012, only 8.8% of Americans had attended a classical music performance in the previous 12 months, compared to 11.6% a decade earlier. "Older Americans are the only demographic group to show an increase in attendance over a decade ago," the NEA study found.

La Jolla Music Society has worked tirelessly to defy this trend by integrating community outreach and education into its core mission. They have kept themselves inextricably linked to younger audiences and up-and-coming musicians on every level, from developing musicians in underserved areas of San Diego to discovering emerging artists worldwide through their prestigious music residencies.

Currently at the helm of their award-winning Education Program is Allison Boles. She is an accomplished tenor and alto sax performer, music educator, and expert project manager. She juggles her position at La Jolla Music Society with studying non-profit leadership and management at USD and performing with The Saxations, an all-female saxophone group. Though she laments that her social life may be suffering from a schedule filled with so much work, she wouldn’t change a thing.

Elizabeth Tobias and Allison Boles

In preparation for her current position, Allison studied jazz performance, theory, history and composition at UCSD and then landed her first dream job at Neil A Kjos Music Company, one of the world’s foremost music education publishers, where she worked for several years.

Allison attributes her optimism and can-do approach to her parents. They always said, “follow your heart and do what you love and you will never go wrong. You will always able to find a way to make a living.”

The Boles mantra for success has mobilized Allison to spread the same message through the multiple educational and community engagement initiatives she oversees. The department serves over 11,000 students of all ages each year. They “work closely with visiting artists to create outreach activities that highlight the unique talents of each student.”

Classical music guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas has been named the society’s inaugural ambassador of education for the 2019-20 season, During his yearlong residency, he will present three original performances along with in-depth education activities with local students and community outreach events, such as a family concert on May 9 in the JAI, the center’s informal performance flex-space, named after its benefactors Joan and Irwin Jacobs.

To say that there are a lot of moving parts in the Education Program is an understatement. It’s like a Rube Goldberg machine. Yet Allison can take multiple complex tasks and make them look simple.

The focal points of the multi-faceted department are centered around:

Community Music Center

Education Tickets

Community Engagement

Artist Development

Audience Engagement

Not surprising are the many awards and accolades received for their outstanding achievements in music education and advocacy though The Community Music Center, the free after-school music program in Logan Heights. Pairing world-class musicians with aspiring young hopefuls, the initiative provides free instruments, education and career development in an underserved area of San Diego hungry for innovation and opportunity.

The program is reminiscent of El Sistema, the musical movement created by Jose Antonio Abreu for at-risk youth in Venezuela, that gave rise to the career of famed LA Philharmonic conductor, Gustavo Dudamel.

Reflecting on the driving force behind all of this work, Boles says, “Music is what I’m drawn to, but all the arts are the core of the human experience. They express things that we aren’t able to necessarily understand and they communicate across cultures, across boundaries in a way that sometimes language can’t. It’s beyond us all.”

This philosophy is evident in the organization’s ongoing exploration of new art forms and innovative ways of presenting new and exciting multicultural programming. La Jolla Music Society never ceases to surprise and continuously surpasses all expectations.

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