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A turn of musical phrase: La Jolla Symphony & Chorus maestro Steven Schick transitioning to new role

Steven Schick will transition into the new role of musical director emeritus with the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus.
Steven Schick will transition into the new role of musical director emeritus with the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus after 15 years with the organization.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Symphony & Chorus)

To mark the occasion, the symphony is creating a fund to establish a $10,000 annual prize in his name.

La Jolla Symphony & Chorus maestro Steven Schick is stepping off his podium after 15 years with the organization and transitioning into a new position as musical director emeritus.

To mark the occasion, the symphony is creating a fund to establish a $10,000 annual prize in his name — the Steven Schick Prize for Acts of Musical Imagination and Excellence.

Before taking on his new role July 1, Schick will conduct two final concerts — “Onward” — as music director at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 3, and Saturday, June 4, at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, 4321 Eastgate Mall. (For tickets and information, visit ljsc.org.)

Schick, who has championed contemporary percussion music by commissioning or premiering more than 150 new works and was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2014, arrived in La Jolla 32 years ago for a position at UC San Diego.

He is now a UCSD distinguished professor of music and the inaugural holder of the Reed Family Presidential Chair — work that will continue.

Schick said he is looking forward to passing the baton at the La Jolla Symphony and to his next position, which is newly created and doesn’t yet have a firm job description.

Whatever the role entails, “I’ll be an ally of the institution and one of its fervent cheerleaders, and I’ll conduct every once in awhile also,” Schick said.

“I’m not leaving the orchestra because I am tired of conducting or tired of the musicians,” he added. “To the contrary, I love the musicians. I love the way we make music together. But as I enter what is undoubtedly my final professional phase, I want to leave open the option that something will happen that I can’t foresee right now, and that will need time, energy and flexibility.

“I’m not leaving something. I am starting something.”

What do Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and Todd Rundgren have in common with acclaimed percussion master, orchestral conductor and UC San Diego music professor Steven Schick, a 2014 percussion Hall of Fame inductee?

He said LJS&C is “one of the oldest community orchestras in the country and certainly one of the most excellent.” It started 68 years ago and became affiliated with UCSD 55 years ago.

The past 15 years have enabled Schick “to work with this extraordinary group of amateur instrumentalists and vocalists” who promote a sense of community, he said.

Steven Schick calls his 15 years with the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus an "extraordinary personal journey."
(Courtesy of La Jolla Symphony & Chorus)

“It’s been an extraordinary personal journey,” Schick said of his time with the organization, which provided him an education in music leadership in San Diego.

He said he’ll miss the collaboration within LJS&C and the “intensity of the commitment” to creating memorable audience experiences.

“I’m not leaving something. I am starting something.”

— Steven Schick

What makes LJS&C special, he said, is that it allows “very gifted musicians … to indulge their musical passion.”

Schick said he is inspired by the challenge of bringing creative forces together. “At the moment that you’re standing on the podium, you are the organizational force that holds 350 people together. And if you succeed, you have a concert.”

He said he takes pride in helping LJS&C weather the COVID-19 pandemic and become “even more strongly directed toward communal activity than ever before. I think that’s a huge success. And it was not easy.”

The establishment of the Steven Schick Prize — which will be awarded annually for an “imaginative musical project or performance that underscores the values of artistically adventurous art making” — honored and surprised Schick.

He said he loves that it’s “not a kind of lifetime achievement award. … Somebody has to do something in order to win this, and that thing should be imaginative and it should be excellent and it should foster values of community and regard for the natural world and the things that we care about in San Diego.”

Prize criteria will be developed by a special committee of LJS&C board members, patrons and community representatives. ◆