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‘Bluegrass & Bling’: La Jolla Music Society mixes motors and music at in-person gala planned for spring

The Steep Canyon Rangers are scheduled to perform during the La Jolla Music Society's "Bluegrass & Bling" gala May 22.
The Steep Canyon Rangers are scheduled to perform during the La Jolla Music Society’s “Bluegrass & Bling” gala May 22 in Carlsbad.
(Courtesy)

With an eye on safety during the COVID-19 pandemic but eager to provide programming, the La Jolla Music Society has moved its annual WinterFest gala to the spring, with plans to ensure “a fun way to kick up our heels,” according to gala chairwoman and LJMS board member Sheryl Scarano.

The in-person event, called “Bluegrass & Bling,” is scheduled for Saturday, May 22, at the Hoehn Motors Porsche dealership in Carlsbad. “We’re hoping to have a sellout crowd,” Scarano said.

The “bling” in the theme refers to the cars that will be on display, including vintage models.

The venue is a large, open area, Scarano said. “We have our fingers crossed and we have our Plan A, B, C and D, depending on the COVID regulations,” she added.

The Grammy Award-winning Steep Canyon Rangers will perform, contributing the bluegrass.

The event also will have the usual cocktails and other entertainment, and “everybody will be masked and we will be socially distancing,” Scarano said. “Safety is first and foremost.”

She said LJMS “successfully held an outdoor gala” in August, a pared-down version of its annual SummerFest at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, where guests listened to performances from hotel room balconies or distanced tables on the lawn.

“We feel like we can do a second one,” she said.

Focusing on bluegrass is a slight divergence from LJMS’ usual “classic, jazz and dance,” Scarano said. The Steep Canyon Rangers seemed like “a nice change of tempo for the organization.”

LJMS President and Chief Executive Todd Schultz said the band is “really, really amazing” and fits with the organization’s focus to provide quality programming.

Though LJMS traditionally has focused on classical music, it has “a really broad range of programmatic offerings,” Schultz said. “Bluegrass is not completely outside of that concept of diverse programming. We skew classical, but we do a lot of things. As long as the quality is there, that is the focus.”

“Bluegrass & Bling” fills in for the WinterFest gala, which was scheduled for January and was reimagined when the booked entertainment wasn’t comfortable with projected pandemic conditions.

“We changed gears,” Scarano said, taking Hoehn up on its offer of the dealership as the venue. “The serendipity is the fact that we have such a strong staff. … It’s been very comforting to have such professional people to work with.”

Should the ongoing pandemic require further constraints, LJMS plans to take the event outdoors, either at the dealership or another location, Scarano said.

Schultz said the contingency plans follow communication with San Diego County health officials. “They have advised us; they’ve looked at our plans. Anything that we do will have approval of the county.”

The adaptations fit with LJMS’ 2021 goal to return to normal business quickly, Schultz said. “We are pivoting every day. It’s a moving target.”

“We just announced a set of streamed concerts,” he said. “All of those artists will come to La Jolla and perform live” from LJMS’ Baker-Baum Concert Hall.

Schultz said LJMS has “different scenarios if the restrictions lift” and is preparing in case in-person audiences are allowed. Plans for the 2021 version of SummerFest include “streaming only to normal indoor concerts,” depending on public health conditions, he said.

“None of us know what’s going to happen,” he said. “We’re all trying to figure this out as we go.”

Tickets for the “Bluegrass & Bling” gala start at $1,500, with proceeds benefiting LJMS’ education, outreach and artistic programs. For more information, visit ljms.org/support/galas. ◆