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New leader of Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center to start just four days before La Jolla concert hall opens

As a steadily increasing beeline of workers scrambles to complete the $80 million Conrad Prebys Peforming Arts Center before its scheduled April 5 opening at 7600 Fay Ave., a hitherto missing piece just as crucial to the concert hall has fallen into place — an artistic leader

Ted DeDee, the immediate former president and CEO of Madison, Wisconsin’s Overture Center for the Arts, has been hired as the new president and CEO of the La Jolla Music Society (LJMS), which controls The Conrad. He succeeds interim president David Kitto.

DeDee’s appointment was announced only five weeks before opening night, and his starting date is only four days prior. One of five finalists of 91 applicants for the job, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, DeDee was unanimously selected on Feb. 28 by the society’s 34-member board of directors.“We are delighted to have Ted DeDee join us at this transformative juncture,” LJMS board chair Katherine Chapin said in a statement. “Having successfully managed and grown seven important performing arts venues across the United States, Ted will continue to enhance LJMS’ outstanding reputation as a world-class presenting organization and he will also operate and expand The Conrad as a potentially world-renowned cultural and entertainment center serving the San Diego community.”

DeDee — who signed a three-year contract for an undisclosed amount with options to renew — has 45 years of concert experience that also includes stints at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, the Rockefeller Arts Center at SUNY Fredonia and the Eastman School of Music's Eastman Theatre in Rochester, New York.

This construction photo, taken Feb. 28, shows The Conrad close to completion with opening night festivities just a month away.
This construction photo, taken Feb. 28, shows The Conrad close to completion with opening night festivities just a month away. COREY LEVITAN

Finally stable?

The LJMS has had wildly unstable leadership since January 2018, when president and artistic director Kristin Lancino abruptly resigned barely two years after coming on board. Her replacement, Florida Grand Opera executive director Susan T. Danis, was announced last July but never served a day in the position. (Last September, LJMS announced that she would instead return to her former position following a mysteriously unclarified episode in which it claimed that a disgruntled former employee falsely defamed her.)

“Quite frankly, (what happened) doesn’t concern me much,” DeDee told the Union-Tribune last week. “I know there have been a lot of hopes and dreams behind getting The Conrad opened. And I know the board felt they needed to make sure they chose the right person, and I feel very qualified.”An LJMS spokesperson told the Light that The Conrad — which will feature the 513-seat Baker-Baum Concert Hall and the 180-seat jazz cabaret named The JAI after La Jollans Joan and Irwin Jacobs — is “on schedule for our opening weekend” and that “we have been fortunate that no issues have significantly prohibited our construction team from reaching our timeline goals.”

Some tickets, starting at $1,500, are still available for the opening-night gala performance on Friday, April 5, but Saturday April 6’s Seal concert at Baker-Baum Hall and and Sunday’s performance by the Hot Sardines at The JAI are sold out.

When asked where ticketholders can park for events at The Conrad — which has no onsite lot — a LJMS spokesperson e-mailed the Light: “The Conrad has multiple parking options for all events. For evening performances, paid parking is available in the parking garage on the corner of Fay and Kline, on a first come first serve basis. In addition, and for daytime overflow, we have letters of agreement with five other village structures to provide parking when required. Valet parking will also be available.”

For ticket information, visit LJMS.org or call (858) 459-3728.

Community reacts

Since The Conrad broke ground Feb. 1, 2017, the Light has published perspectives on the center from the people building, fundraising and promoting it. Now, we offer perspectives from those most affected by The Conrad: its neighbors — both businesses and residents.

“We’re looking forward to our residents being able to attend the shows and for it to revive this end of Fay. As for the noise, we’re not worried about it. Our concern was that if we could hear the construction, we might be able to hear the shows themselves. But we don’t hear the construction, except in our offices in the front of the building, and the shows are not going to be nearly as loud as what’s going on outside now.”

— Bobi Thomas, marketing director, Monarch Cottage, 7630 Fay Ave.

“It’s going to be very good for us and for everybody, I think. There’s going to be more people around, and the most important thing for business is the traffic. I know they will have their own café there, but they can’t compete with us. We are better.”

— Hamdi Gumustekin, co-owner Bernini’s Bistro, 7550 Fay Ave.

“Christopher Beach (the former LJMS president/CEO who consults on The Conrad’s construction) comes in here all the time and says, ‘You’re going to be open late, aren’t you?’ But we’ll see what happens. Our business isn’t really based on walk-ins. We do a lot of wedding cakes and stuff. But I’m very into classical music and the whole music scene. I’ve taken ballet for almost 40 years. I still do. I love it.”

— Michele Coulon, owner, Michele Coulon Dessertier, 7556 Fay Ave.

“I think it’s a wonderful asset to the Village of La Jolla to have this Conrad building bring culture to La Jolla. So the little side issues, such as parking, etc. and whatever, melt in comparison to the events it will bring here.”

— Ray Smith, neighbor

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