La Jolla Music Society and SummerFest Music Director Inon Barnatan agree to a new three-year contract

Inon Barnatan, music director for the La Jolla Music Society's SummerFest, has a new three-year contract.
Inon Barnatan, music director for the La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest, has a new three-year contract through September 2025.
(Hayne Palmour IV)

As its 2022 SummerFest draws to a close Aug. 26, the La Jolla Music Society announced it has come to an agreement with the concert series’ music director, Inon Barnatan, on a new three-year contract through September 2025.

Barnatan, an internationally acclaimed concert pianist, has been music director of SummerFest since 2019, creating the theme and programming for the concerts at La Jolla’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center and selecting the musical artists who will perform.

“As a longtime admirer of both Inon the artist and Inon the person, I couldn’t be more thrilled to get a chance to work with him for another three years,” said Music Society Artistic Director Leah Rosenthal. “Thanks to Inon’s creative vision, collaborative spirit and impeccable artistry, the most prolific and in-demand classical musicians, jazz artists and dancers in the world are excited to come here to The Conrad to play with him. There is no one better to lead SummerFest into the next phase of its evolution as one of the best chamber music festivals in the U.S., let alone the world.”

The nonprofit LJMS did not disclose the financial terms of the contract.

SummerFest 2022 was the biggest in the organization’s history, offering 20 concerts over four weeks, along with more than 70 free educational and community engagement events.

“Working with Leah, Todd [Schultz, president and chief executive of the La Jolla Music Society] and the entire incredible staff of The Conrad ... has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my musical life,” Barnatan said. “It’s deeply gratifying to feel the audiences responding so enthusiastically and with such love to the work we have been putting onstage. I can’t wait to see what the next three years bring.”

Barnatan’s work on SummerFest is year-round, in addition to his busy performance and recording schedule as he travels around the globe from his home base in New York City, according to Stephanie Thompson, communications manager for LJMS.

She said planning is already underway for the 35th SummerFest, scheduled for July and August 2023.

“Inon has clearly found a new career niche that fits his skill set and expertise perfectly,” Schultz said. “With each season, his curatorial skills develop and expand and you can palpably sense his personal exuberance for the work in the performances on the stage and in the artists he hires.

“Inon’s personal enthusiasm and creativity are helping draw new audiences. In fact, this summer’s festival — even after two years of quarantine and COVID — will nearly match the record-setting sales of 2019, when The Conrad was brand-new.

“Inon’s contract extension lines up perfectly with the board’s recently developed strategic plan, which lays out goals for more extensive utilization of our new venue and a dedication to deeper service to the community.”

Barnatan’s activities outlined in the contract include overseeing the committee that annually selects SummerFest Fellowship Artists from an international pool of applicants. He also participates in various SummerFest education and community engagement events, including coaching workshops, encounters, open rehearsals and artist conversations.

Barnatan is a regular soloist with many of the world’s foremost orchestras and conductors and served as the inaugural artist-in-association of the New York Philharmonic for three seasons. He is a recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant for
outstanding instrumentalists and Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award for rising artists and is a sought-after recitalist and chamber musician, playing at prestigious venues including New York’s Carnegie Hall.

— La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.