‘It’s a bit unreal’: La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest connects emerging artists and experienced pros
Two groups of young musicians chosen by the Fellowship Artist Program will participate in the chamber music festival, which opens Friday, July 28.
Japanese violinist Kyoka Misawa is excitedly preparing for her first visit to La Jolla.
She is part of Quartet Integra, one of two groups chosen by the La Jolla Music Society’s Fellowship Artist Program to participate in the annual SummerFest chamber music festival from Friday, July 28, through Saturday, Aug. 26, in La Jolla.
Each year, musicians apply and audition before two groups are selected for the fellowship program, which offers emerging classical artists the opportunity to perform with seasoned chamber musicians and receive coaching during SummerFest workshops.
Fellowship artist alumni have gone on to win major awards and competitions, including the Avery Fisher Career Grant, Fischoff Competition and Banff International String Quartet Competition. Many have returned to the festival as senior musicians.
Quartet Integra, which also includes violinist Rintaro Kikuno, violist Itsuki Yamamoto and cellist Anri Tsukiji, has been playing together for eight years and is now based in both Japan and Los Angeles.
The quartet applied for the Fellowship Artist Program because SummerFest is a “leading chamber music program,” Misawa said. “We are so curious about this festival.”
The 37th annual festival will feature five pairings who are partners in life as well as music.
Misawa said she is excited to meet the other artists playing in the festival, along with the opportunity to build the quartet’s following in the United States.
Quartet Integra will play musical preludes before SummerFest concerts Aug. 4, 9 and 26 and perform during a concert Aug. 23.
The members of the other 2023 fellowship group auditioned separately. La Jolla Music Society learning and engagement director Allison Boles and the selection panel chose them and put them together.
Cellist Julia Lee, violinist Max Tan and pianist Elliott Wuu are all current or recent students of The Juilliard School in New York and have known one another through an “overlapping network,” but they had not played together as a trio before, Tan said.
The three, known for SummerFest as trioJEM, have begun rehearsing together for their La Jolla performances, which will be preludes ahead of SummerFest concerts Aug. 5, 16 and 23.
This year’s lineup at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center will feature 21 performances from July 28 to Aug. 26.
The Fellowship Artist Program’s main draw, Tan said, is “there is this wonderful integration of the fellowship program not [as] a separate institute but as being part of the festival life.”
Most conservatory-trained musicians often spend their summers at education programs, Tan said, most of which offer “intense study of a very limited repertoire.”
Though there are benefits to focusing on one or two works, such programs don’t reflect “what a freelance musician’s life is like,” he said.
Tan, who has not performed in San Diego before, said he’s looking forward to being part of “one of the most prestigious chamber music programs in the United States” and learning more about the La Jolla community.
SummerFest’s networking potential “is really wonderful,” he added.
Lee Mullican’s 1967 painting ‘Electric Night’ is the featured artwork for this year’s music festival, which is themed ‘The Great Unknown.’
The festival is an opportunity to “really dive into the music quite deep and to play it for others,” Tan said. He’s also excited to “learn about how so many of these other wonderful artists approach music.”
Cellist Coleman Itzkoff, who participated in SummerFest as a fellowship artist in 2014, is returning this year as a seasoned member of the SummerFest roster.
He recalls his first SummerFest as the “perfect first step” into life as a professional musician.
Itzkoff was chosen to form a trio with two other musicians. All three were students at Rice University but didn’t apply together.
“We were getting coaching with amazing artists. … I was playing alongside these professionals in smaller ensembles. … It was a great jumping-off point,” Itzkoff said.
In the nine years since he was a SummerFest fellowship artist, Itzkoff’s career “has veered in many different directions,” he said, from classical to contemporary music to dancing and acting.
His SummerFest performances Aug. 4-5 are “going to be a thrill,” he said. “It’s a bit unreal. I looked up to those artists nine years ago. … They were my heroes at that time. It is a little bit daunting to then be stepping into that role.”
For the full festival schedule and more information, visit theconrad.org/summerfest-2023. ◆
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