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La Jolla Music Society cancels concert after cello star Alisa Weilerstein tests positive for coronavirus

Alisa Weilerstein, world-renowned cellist
World-renowned cellist Alisa Weilerstein last performed at La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest on Aug. 15. She informed the organization of her positive coronavirus test result the night of Aug. 16.
(Courtesy / Marco Borggreve)

Weilerstein last performed with the La Jolla Music Society on Aug. 15. The society says it’s testing all staff, crew and musicians.

The La Jolla Music Society canceled its Aug. 17 SummerFest concert, part of its annual three-week chamber music celebration, after one of its star musicians tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated.

Alisa Weilerstein, world-renowned cellist and wife of San Diego Symphony conductor Rafael Payare, performed at a 3 p.m. SummerFest concert on Aug. 15 — her sixth and final concert at this year’s edition.

She informed the La Jolla Music Society of her positive test result the night of Aug. 16. That set into motion a series of changes and decisions that affect the society and its plans for the rest of this week.

Weilerstein was next scheduled to perform Thursday, Aug. 19, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. She was not listed on the Hollywood Bowl’s website the morning of Aug. 18.

The La Jolla Music Society began extensive testing of all its staff, stage crew and musicians on Aug. 17. The results of those tests, expected to be available Aug. 18, will determine how SummerFest proceeds with its final 2021 concerts Aug. 18-20.

“Because of Alisa’s positive test, we are administering COVID tests to 100 percent of our staff and crew,” society President and Chief Executive Todd Schultz told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The company Sameday Health was administering the tests.

“Our hope is Alisa is an isolated case,” Schultz said. “If all the tests come back negative, we’ll know that she is an isolated case, and we can proceed with SummerFest. If they don’t come back negative, then we’ll have to regroup.”

Weilerstein, who lives in San Diego with her husband and daughter, was unavailable for comment.

The La Jolla Music Society canceled its SummerFest concert Aug. 17 "out of an abundance of caution.”
(Darren Bradley)

The society disclosed the 39-year-old cellist’s coronavirus status in an email it sent to ticket holders the afternoon of Aug. 17 announcing that that night’s SummerFest concert had been canceled “out of an abundance of caution.”

The email read, in part: “Last night [Aug. 16] we learned that one of our SummerFest musicians — cellist Alisa Weilerstein — tested positive for COVID. She was previously vaccinated, and her symptoms are very mild, for which we’re grateful. We also understand that her family has tested negative, as has our [SummerFest] music director and her close collaborator Inon Barnatan.

“To ensure that this is an isolated case among our LJMS artists, we are currently administering COVID tests to every musician, staff member and stagehand, as well as many artist hosts and board members. The early antigen tests have been coming back negative, and the PCR test results will come in tomorrow morning [Aug. 18]. Out of an abundance of caution, as we await the PCR test results, we have chosen to cancel tonight’s performance.”

Schultz emphasized that the society has rigorously followed all state and county health guidelines during the pandemic, which saw the 2020 edition of SummerFest transformed into an entirely online event. If all goes well, he said, the society will try to reschedule the canceled Aug. 17 concert to a daytime performance later this week. Refunds are available at the point of purchase.

— La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.