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‘A bond through music’: SummerFest artists and La Jolla hosts form lasting friendships

La Jollan Vivian Lim (left) and pianist Joyce Yang have formed a close friendship through the SummerFest hosting program.
La Jollan Vivian Lim (left) and pianist Joyce Yang have formed a close friendship through the La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest hosting program.
(Courtesy of Vivian Lim)

The La Jolla Music Society’s annual SummerFest will bring more than 95 artists to La Jolla starting Friday, July 29, for a four-week festival of concerts and free events at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.

Rather than stay in a hotel, many of the scheduled artists will be hosted by La Jolla residents in a program that musician Anthony McGill calls “really special.”

Musician Anthony McGill has developed a close relationship with La Jollans Abby and Ray Weiss through his SummerFest stays.
(Eric Rudd Photography)

McGill, a New York-based clarinet player who will perform three times during SummerFest beginning Saturday, July 30, is staying with local residents Abby and Ray Weiss for a fourth festival. He also visits the Weiss home when he’s in La Jolla for reasons other than SummerFest.

“We have breakfast together. It’s a very different vibe than staying in a hotel and going to the concert,” McGill said.

The hosting program is a SummerFest tradition dating back some 40 years. The aim is for all the performers to stay in people’s homes unless special arrangements are made. This year, all but 10 of the artists are being hosted, according to the La Jolla Music Society.

A hosting committee meets regularly to identify potential new hosts. Anyone can offer to be a host by contacting the Music Society, and staff will follow up to try to pair hosts with visiting musicians. Currently about 120 hosts are on the list.

McGill said staying with the Weisses makes returning to SummerFest year after year “much more of a family atmosphere.” They share experiences, talk politics and careers and discuss the concerts and artists over meals. Abby and Ray provide him “warmth and a space to stay as well as support in the audience,” McGill said. “It’s really nice.”

He said the Weisses are like parental figures who share wisdom with him and his family, as McGill’s visits often include his wife and young daughter.

“That’s what makes it special,” he said.

Abby Weiss said she has been involved with the Music Society since 1970. The artist hosting program began with dinners in residents’ houses and grew in popularity, giving audience members the chance to “talk to the musicians [and] see them as people,” she said.

The program evolved to include artists staying with Music Society supporters during SummerFest.

Weiss said the hosting program has bonuses for both host and artist.

Artists aren’t relegated to another hotel and get to share in family life and meals. Hosts are treated to impromptu performances when the artists practice in their homes, and they develop an understanding of how hard the artists work.

Hosting McGill and his family is a lot of fun, Weiss said. “Making the space and the time and the quiet for the musicians to practice … adds a dimension to the visit.”

“It’s a bond through music, but it develops into personal relationships,” she said. “You get to know people.”

“We have breakfast together. It’s a very different vibe than staying in a hotel and going to the concert.”

— Musician Anthony McGill

La Jollan Vivian Lim has hosted pianist Joyce Yang, along with other musicians, for years and said she enjoys helping LJMS provide a “friendly, family-style” experience for the artists.

Yang, who lives in Birmingham, Ala., “is a very dear friend to me now and good friend of the family,” said Lim, who visits with Yang every time she performs in San Diego or Orange counties.

Pianist Joyce Yang says her La Jolla host, Vivian Lim, has become one of her closest friends.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Music Society)

“She’s just a very sweet, awesome person,” Lim said. “We became very close over the multiple times I’ve hosted her. … She’s become part of the family.”

“Vivian is one of my closest friends,” Yang said.

Yang will perform four times during SummerFest beginning July 29. She said she loves the LJMS festival and making music with “truly extraordinary musicians from all over the world.”

“It is so wonderful to walk onstage knowing so many of your friends are in the audience cheering you on,” Yang said. “It feels like a celebration whenever I play in La Jolla.”

She added that she’s looking forward to catching up with Lim over a glass of wine and heading out on another of their “epic shopping adventures” soon.

“I feel very lucky that I was paired up with her many years ago,” Yang said.

For more information on SummerFest, visit ljms.org.