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Free concert series ‘Jazz on Prospect’ debuts this week in La Jolla

Singer Anna Danes is headlining and producing a new free concert series in La Jolla called "Jazz on Prospect."
(Tamea Agle)

The monthly event with singer Anna Danes will usually correspond with the First Friday Art Walk.

How does a concert series emerge from a business mixer?

Quite spontaneously, it appears.

The monthly “Jazz on Prospect” series, which debuts Friday, March 4, in La Jolla, grew out of a networking event at the Pacific Sotheby’s International office at 1111 Prospect St.

Anna Danes, a singer turned luxury home sales agent, sidled up to the keyboard player and suggested they perform a couple of tunes. The pianist, a longtime friend, launched into a song and she began singing — no microphone in hand.

“Next thing I knew, the full room went dead silent and everyone stopped what they were doing,” Danes recalled.

“When she sang, everybody immediately turned their attention to Anna,” said Faby Rangel, Pacific Sotheby’s office manager. “She has an amazing voice and stage presence. She can connect with people.”

Singing real estate agent Anna Danes (left) performs at a recent business mixer at Pacific Sotheby's in La Jolla.
Singing real estate agent Anna Danes (left) performs while couples dance at a recent business mixer at Pacific Sotheby’s in La Jolla.
(Courtesy photo)

A day or two later, Rangel approached Danes to ask if she would consider performing at regular live jazz events there. The building, which formerly housed Victoria’s Secret, fronts a mini plaza with a marble fountain at Prospect Street and Herschel Avenue. It’s a spacious venue on a main street of The Village.

Danes was enthusiastic and discussed the idea with Amber Anderson, her residential sales team leader. Anderson, who also is president of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association, was jazzed about the idea.

“She can hold a crowd,” said Anderson, who noted that several people spontaneously danced as Danes sang during the mixer. “She’s very engaging, very natural. She has the talent.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic, the concert series seemed just the ticket to rally camaraderie and revive community spirit.

In February, organizers handed out fliers to visitors during the La Jolla First Friday Art Walk, which features galleries and retailers the first Friday of every month.

The inaugural concert is from 5 to 7 p.m. March 4 during this month’s Art Walk. Sixty chairs are being set up for the event, which is free and open to the public.

Though the concerts usually will take place during the First Friday event, next month’s performance will be on Thursday, April 21, the evening before the beginning of the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance car show.

“The jazz component will elevate things and give people something special to look forward to,” Anderson said.

Pacific Sotheby’s will remain the series’ primary sponsor, Anderson said, though it is seeking partners to help sponsor future concerts.

“Our goal is to always offer them for free,” she said.

Danes is headlining and producing the concerts but is inviting other performers as well. On March 4, she’ll be backed by a trio of musicians.

She is a veteran at this, having created and moderated a “Jazz on Cedros” series for more than three years at Carruth Cellars in Solana Beach.

The theme at the winery was informal, with artists sharing stories of their lives and music as if they were with a group of friends. Danes wants to revive that formula in La Jolla.

Danes, 52, excels at reinventing herself. She was born in Poland under communist domination, fled with her parents to Sweden and then they moved to Canada, where she started her career as a practicing attorney in Montreal.

She abandoned that to move to San Diego, marry and have a child.

By happenstance, she fell into a music career. When her daughter turned 7, Danes bought her a package of singing lessons. But her daughter’s attention quickly dwindled. Not about to waste her investment, Danes stepped in and took the remaining classes herself.

That was the unexpected birth of a singing and songwriting career that has led to multiple single releases and two albums, with a third album in the works.

Danes’ second album, “Find Your Wings,” was recorded at Capitol Studios with prominent jazz musicians. It rose to 13th in traditional jazz on the Billboard charts.

She also had singing engagements at corporate conventions and charity benefits and national anthem performances at sporting events, including Del Mar racetrack. She additionally made sporadic acting appearances in reality TV shows and films.

She even gave a TEDx talk on the power of music and how it transformed her.

In 2019, Wayne Brady called her out of the crowd on “Let’s Make a Deal.” Danes was dressed as a character from “The Sound of Music,” poised to sing.

Her journey hasn’t been smooth. Her life also included a painful divorce and two triumphs over cancer.

For now, with the pandemic ebbing, Danes is eager to expand her live musical performances, and “Jazz on Prospect” is a start. But a planned marriage and another reinvention of herself also are in the works.

“I found my true love,” she said. “Overnight my life has changed. Personal life and happiness trump everything.” ◆