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‘Every day is an adventure’: Time in La Jolla is a high note for many SummerFest musicians

Francisco Fullana, Johannes Moser, Blake Pouliot, Inon Barnatan, Tessa Lark, Simone Porter and Masumi Per Rostad
SummerFest musicians Francisco Fullana, Johannes Moser, Blake Pouliot, music director Inon Barnatan, Tessa Lark, Simone Porter and Masumi Per Rostad gather in La Jolla recently.
(Courtesy of Inon Barnatan)

Once offstage, the musicians of the La Jolla Music Society’s annual SummerFest concert series like to explore the best of La Jolla, often with one another.

Five artists performing in this year’s SummerFest, which began July 29 and runs through Friday, Aug. 26, at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, shared their La Jolla loves with the Light:

Brad Balliett

Brad Balliett, shown birdwatching in late July in Wisconsin, loves to watch birds in La Jolla.
(Courtesy of Brad Balliett)

Brad Balliett, a New York-based bassoonist, will arrive Monday, Aug. 22, for the final week of SummerFest, his third time playing the festival. He said he’s looking forward to swimming in The Cove and elsewhere in La Jolla.

“The most necessary thing is to just get in the ocean,” he said. “I do love the water. I grew up going to the beach in New England. … I’m a very ocean person.”

He and fellow SummerFest musicians often swim at night, he added.

“The greatest joy of being a freelance musician is the places that you end up,” Balliett said. “I love SummerFest. I love the musicians there; I love the programming. And I would say I look forward equally to just being in La Jolla.”

A highlight of Balliett’s time at SummerFest in 2021 was “looking for the leopard sharks that come in the summertime and will come right up to shore,” he said.

Balliett, who’s also an avid birdwatcher, says his interest in animals rivals his passion for music.

“La Jolla is a really special place,” he said. “It’s a completely different set of birds than we have on the East Coast, [with] stunning landscapes and the variety of habitats that are all right next to each other.”

At The Cove, he said, “you can stand in one place and see 20 or 30 species of birds down on the beach, walking around the rocks and out flying [over] the water.”

Doug Balliett

Doug Balliett sees much of La Jolla via bicycle.
(Courtesy of Doug Balliett)

Balliett’s twin brother, Doug, is playing bass in SummerFest through Thursday, Aug. 11.

For Doug, who also is based in New York, participating in La Jolla culture means “a lot of outdoor life,” he said.

Doug borrowed a bicycle from his La Jolla hosts and has been “biking all over La Jolla up and down the coast and to and from rehearsal,” he said. He’s run to Mission Beach and back and made it his goal to get in the ocean every day during his two-week stay.

“There’s so much on offer” in La Jolla, he said.

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.

Francisco Fullana

Violinist Francisco Fullana, whose first SummerFest stay is now over, said his La Jolla experience was “so magical.”

He said he was struck by the beauty and the sense of community among the SummerFest musicians and staff.

“Every day is an adventure,” he said.

Fullana went scuba diving his second day in La Jolla, at sunset.

He said he saw sharks, crabs, lobsters and stingrays. “It was really amazing.”

Fullana, a native of Spain who has gone diving all over the world after getting certified in Northern California, said diving off La Jolla is “really cool because you get to kind of see how the whole ecosystem changes,” going from sand to kelp forest.

He said he also enjoyed activities like a beach party the Music Society organized for SummerFest musicians and “seeing the sunset and … getting your feet wet while it gets darker and darker and looking at the stars.”

For many people, talking about Paris takes on a cinematic dimension — the sights, the food, the art, the music.

Wynona Yinuo Wang

Pianist Wynona Yinuo Wang took her first ocean swim off La Jolla.
(Courtesy of Wynona Yinuo Wang)

The beach party struck pianist Wynona Yinuo Wang as well, as it brought her first ocean swim.

Wang, who is originally from Beijing but is based in New York, is visiting La Jolla for the first time to play at SummerFest and is staying for all of August.

Aside from rehearsing, she has been exploring all things La Jolla while enjoying its “perfect” weather, she said.

Wang and others decided to slip into the ocean after sunset, and the motion of the waves was a novel experience that she said gave her an opportunity “to be in my own world [and] enjoy the moment.”

Wang also realized a childhood dream of riding a scooter and said she has loved watching the seals at the Children’s Pool.

As it prepares for its annual 20-concert SummerFest, the La Jolla Music Society is ready to repeat its accompanying education program, featuring 70 free events intended to draw people of all ages and backgrounds to the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.

Masumi Per Rostad

Masumi Per Rostad had an electric scooter shipped to La Jolla for easy commuting.
(Stephanie Thompson)

Masumi Per Rostad, a viola player also based in New York, returned for his third SummerFest and left Aug. 4.

From his first visit, he’s been struck by La Jolla’s beauty, he said.

This time, Rostad ran on the La Jolla Bike Path and coastline and said that for his next visit, he hopes to finally get on a surfboard.

To avoid rental car hassles, Rostad added something new this year: He bought an electric scooter and had it shipped to La Jolla to wheel around town.

“It’s just so nice to be outside [feeling] the wind blowing past my face,” he said.

He said he didn’t know what he’d do with the scooter once he left La Jolla.

Meals for musicians

When SummerFest artists get hungry, The Taco Stand on Pearl Street has been “an unofficial lunchtime” place, Fullana said.

Rostad agreed, saying the musicians have worked out the timing to beat the lines there.

The artists have made The Spot on Prospect Street an evening hangout, Rostad added.

Doug Balliett said he’s found great food at Don Carlos Taco Shop on Pearl Street, while Wang said El Pescador on Pearl “is just so cool.”

For Rostad, though, the jewel that keeps him returning to La Jolla is the camaraderie he’s developed with other SummerFest musicians.

“It’s just such an incredible joy to be able to make music with all these different people,” Rostad said. “We’re all just so happy to be with each other. And that’s what I really love about coming back.”

For more information about SummerFest, visit ljms.org.