New La Jolla Symphony exec director hopes to expand musical outreach

Stephanie Weaver has taken over for the retired Diane Salisbury as executive director of the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus.

On Oct. 7 — before music director Steven Schick conducted the first La Jolla Symphony & Chorus (LJS&C) rehearsal of the season — the ensemble’s new executive director introduced herself to about 75 musicians in the band room at UCSD’s Conrad Prebys Music Center.

“I’ve been an arts administrator for almost 20 years because I love being in a place where I can make all this possible — making sure we have money and all the systems in place to keep this going,” said Stephanie Weaver.

Her new job — which Weaver assumed a little short of a month ago, after Diane Salisbury retired — is strictly business. But what she does every morning before work, in a cramped room next to her office, is not.

Weaver plays Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' in the rehearsal room she uses every morning before work.

“Beethoven is my favorite composer,” she told the Light earlier that evening, after pulling up a stool and launching into the first few stanzas of “Moonlight Sonata.”

Weaver is an accomplished pianist. Having earned a doctorate in piano performance from Michigan State University, she’s played with ensembles, orchestras, choruses and in solo recitals. And she still plays.

“It fuels my passion for everything,” she explained, adding that being a musician actually helps her administrate better.

“I can relate to the musicians on the same level,” she said. “It can be challenging to connect, sometimes, if you don’t speak that language.”

Also, she added, she can just crack a piano lid at house parties and pleasantly surprise potential donors.

“Music is just such a great way to bring people together and connect with people,” she said.

In her mid-20s, Weaver performed and taught college and thought that’s all she ever wanted her career to be.

“But I didn’t love the politics,” she said. “I had this really idealized notion of what it was — just sitting around, making music with my students. But that was the smallest part of what I did. So I found this job as an arts administrator at a community music school and I really loved it.”

Weaver was in her 12th year of executive-directing the Cape Conservatory in Cape Cod when a friend in San Diego read about Salisbury’s impending retirement and sent her the article.

“I wasn’t really looking,” she said, “but this was such a beautiful place to live and a really great organization to work for. And I happened to be on vacation visiting my friend when the interviews were happening, so I had an in-person interview and things just fell into place.”

Weaver introduces herself to about 75 of 90 symphony musicians during the first practice of the season on Oct. 7.

Weaver — who has resettled in Hillcrest with her boyfriend, who is a conductor and folk-music composer — said Cape Cod was great but didn’t have the academic presence she grew to love in Ann Arbor.

“I missed the energy and the college students, so I’m glad to be back in that,” she said.

Founded in 1954 and affiliated with UCSD since 1967, LJS&C is San Diego’s oldest and largest community orchestra and chorus. (There are 90 members in the orchestra, 100 in the chorus.)

Weaver said she plans to continue taking the ensemble in the same general direction as Salisbury — who executive-directed 13 seasons — but that she’s identified several areas she’d like to try and put her stamp on.

“I’d love to expand our outreach program,” she said. “We do a lot of work with youth that people don’t know about — we have a young artist competition and a young people’s concert — but I think we can do more. And I’d love to work more with the university and really leverage the possibilities with interdepartmental relationships.”

The UCSD Department of Music provides many of LJS&C’s musicians by allowing them to perform for credit

“But I’d like to cross-fertilize more,” Weaver said, “and to get more young people to our concert — find ways to engage and excite young people about this great live music that exists.”

Music director Steven Schick conducts the ensemble through Bartok's 'Concerto for Orchestra' during the first rehearsal of its 65th season.
Music director Steven Schick conducts the ensemble through Bartok’s ‘Concerto for Orchestra’ during the first rehearsal of its 65th season.

LJS&C launches 65th season Nov. 2-3

In addition to a new executive director, the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus (LJS&C) also welcomes a new choral director during its 65th season. Ruben Valenzuela —founder and artistic director of Beach Collegium of San Diego — wlll share the podium with longtime maestro Steven Schick and guest conductors in works by Benjamin Britten, Florence Price, Gioachino Rossini, Bela Bartok, John Adams and others.

The six-concert series kicks off Nov. 2 and 3 with the familiar (Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”) and the unfamiliar. (Co-concertmaster Peter Clarke solos in the “First Violin Concerto” of Florence Price, a prolific African-American composer from the 1930s-1950s, whose “Second Violin Concerto” was one of the highlights of last season.) The program concludes with Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra,” written by the composer in a frail state during the depths of World War II.

The performances take place 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3 at Mandeville Auditorium at UC San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive. (A pre-concert lecture will be given by Schick one hour before start time.) Tickets are $18-$39. or (858) 534-4637.

A free bonus event, the Young People’s Concert — also featuring the “William Tell Overture” — will precede the season kickoff, 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1. Reservations are required via