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La Jolla Music Society pivots to livestreamed performances for rest of 2020-21 season

Sonia De Los Santos will perform a children's music livestreamed concert for the La Jolla Music Society on May 15.
(Courtesy)

The nonprofit arts organization’s digital season will include new online performances by Wynton Marsalis, Joffrey Ballet, Alisa Weilerstein, Sonia De Los Santos and more.

The La Jolla Music Society’s 2020-21 season will go on at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center but with livestreamed concerts replacing the performances in front of live audiences that were originally scheduled to take place between this month and late June.

At least five of those performances, including by 21-year-old cello prodigy Zlatomir Fung and piano star Yefim Bronfman, will be livestreamed — sans audience — from The Conrad’s 513-seat Baker Baum Concert Hall. A few will be streamed from other locations, including the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago.

The move to an entirely online format for the La Jolla performances was prompted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which in March led to the shuttering of The Conrad and countless other venues across the globe.

The move also was the result of the recent decision by Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz musician Wynton Marsalis to cancel his Jazz at Lincoln Center ensemble’s winter 2021 West Coast tour because of health concerns. That tour included four February drive-in concerts, presented by the La Jolla Music Society, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“The Wynton concerts in Del Mar were by far the most prominent in our schedule,” said Todd Schultz, the society’s new president and chief executive.

“When they fell through, we looked at what was still in our season and what artists could still come here to do livestream programs. Because we wanted our [revamped, all-digital] season announcement to include only programs that are at no risk of being canceled.”

The desire to go on with the show — whether online or, perhaps later this year, in some other socially distanced format — is shared by Leah Rosenthal, the society’s artistic director.

“We will never be able to replace live performances,” she said. “But we can be really smart about how we use digital media to enhance our presentation of live performances in the meantime.

“We made the decision early on not to cancel our 2020-21 season. We’ve saved as much of our season as possible, whether by livestreaming or having two socially distanced solo piano brunch concerts in our courtyard by Eric Lu [in October].”

The 52-year-old society’s 2020-21 season boasted 41 concerts. Because of the pandemic, 20 have been postponed to future seasons, 12 were canceled and nine pivoted to livestream. The pandemic also forced the 2020 edition of the society’s SummerFest to be reduced from 18 concerts at The Conrad to six livestreamed performances.

Yet, while Schultz, Rosenthal and the staff and board of the nonprofit society were disappointed, they seized on the rare opportunity afforded them.

The Conrad, which opened in 2019, houses state-of-the-art audio and video recording facilities. It also includes a control room from which directors can guide film and sound production crews. As a result, both the Aspen Music Festival and Celebrity Series of Boston have used The Conrad for livestreams, while SummerFest music director Inon Barnatan recorded a live album in the empty Conrad last year as his producer participated online from New York.

“We’ve been able to expand the reach of our organization,” Rosenthal said.

That doesn’t make up for lost live concert ticket revenue, but it helps.

“As a nonprofit, we rely tremendously on our donor base,” Shultz said. “In a year like this, contributions are the way we will get through this. Sponsorship and donor support is how we are able to program online, with fewer tickets sold. That is just a fact of life.

“We are also extremely gratified to have received two grants from the Paycheck Protection Program. Those grants won’t balance our budget, but they help point us in the right direction.”

La Jolla Music Society spring livestream season

Feb. 20: Cocktail chat with Jazz at Lincoln Center founder Wynton Marsalis, 5 p.m. Free with LJMS subscription.

Feb. 20: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet with Wynton Marsalis, “The Democracy! Suite,” 7 p.m. Free.

March 3: Joffrey Ballet, “Under the Trees’ Voices,” open rehearsal, 1 p.m. Free.

March 3: Conversation with Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and choreographer Nicolas Blanc, 2 p.m. Free with LJMS subscription.

April 7: Joffrey Ballet, “Under the Trees’ Voices,” open rehearsal, 1 p.m. Free.

April 10: Philippe Quint, “Charlie Chaplin’s Smile,” 7 p.m. $15-$20.

April 11: Inon Barnatan, Philippe Quint and Alisa Weilerstein, 7 p.m. $15-$20.

April 30: Joffrey Ballet, “Under the Trees’ Voices,” 5 p.m. Free.

May 12: Yefim Bronfman, 7 p.m. $15-$20.

May 15: Sonia De Los Santos, 10:30 a.m. $15-$20.

June 6: Zlatomir Fung and Richard Fu, 3 p.m. $15-$20.

June 29: The Hot Sardines, 7 p.m. $15-$20.

Phone: (858) 459-3728

Online: ljms.org