La Jolla’s The Conrad welcomes public with free day

The San Diego Youth Symphony Chamber Ensemble, aka Belmont Strings — all of whom are siblings playing since age 2 — floors the crowd with its rendition of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 4 in C Minor. (Their father, Marc de la Motte, introduced them.)

The La Jolla Music Society (LJMS) welcomed more than 600 preregistered members of the community to its new home, The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Ave., with a free open house, 2-6 p.m. Saturday, April 27.

The event featured performances in the Baker-Baum Concert Hall by LJMS’s education partners, including the San Diego Youth Symphony Chamber Ensemble (aka the Belmont Strings), PGK Project, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet and LJMS’ own Community Music Center.

The smaller JAI theater (named for major donors ‘Joan And Irwin’ Jacobs) featured performances by Grammy-winning trumpeter Curtis Taylor, San Diego School of Performing Arts Jazz Combo, and Drummers Without Borders music program.

“We wanted to give our education partners a platform and feature them, as a way to bring the community into The Conrad,” said LJMS education manager Allison Boles.


Judging from those who hadn’t attended events here before, both the performers and The Conrad were hits.

“Everything is wonderful,” said La Jolla resident Maryanne Kennedy, echoing the opinion of most attendees interviewed.

When asked how The Conrad compares to the the Music Society’s former home venue, Kennedy’s husband, James, laughed and replied: “The Sherwood Auditorium was fine but you can’t compare it to this. A lot of innovative thought went into this. It’s amazing what they came up with.”

As always in show business, however, you can’t please everyone.


“The auditorium is very attractive and the seats are comfortable,” said Casa de Manana resident Bonnie Dunn, “but it’s much smaller than I thought it would be and we couldn’t hear the speakers when they used the microphone.”

La Jolla resident Karen Haze said she loved both the venue and the event, but said that being inside The Conrad was a weird experience for her for an unpredictable reason.

“My ex-boyfriend was named Conrad,” she said, “but at least now I can associate the name ‘Conrad’ with something fantastic.”


Ted DeDee

At The Conrad’s open house, the Light caught up with Ted DeDee, barely a month into his new job as LJMS CEO. DeDee described the opportunity as surpassing his expectations.

“The building is beautiful,” he said. “The audiences love it, the artists who’ve been here love it. We’ve had a wide variety of music to kind of challenge the acoustics and to see what works and what doesn’t work. It’s just exciting.”

When asked how much fundraising remained for The Conrad’s $82 million construction price, DeDee said: “Maybe 2 or 3 percent” (translating to $1.6 to $2.5 million). After that is secured, LJMS will look toward raising money for an operating endowment that will support and sustain the building and the extra programming we now want to do.”


When asked his take on LJMS’s game of leadership musical chairs — he is the society’s third CEO and president since January of 2018, when Kristin Lancino abruptly resigned barely two years after coming on board — DeDee replied: “Well, it’s always the goal to have an environment and a staff and a board and a community that is all together in supporting a venture like The Conrad.”

Finally, DeDee recalled having retired not only from his last job — running the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin — but from working in general, when he got the LJMS call.

“I was sitting home minding my own business and all of a sudden found myself here,” he said. “I thought, ‘Retirement or La Jolla? No question.’ ”