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10 Questions for Christopher Beach, President and Artistic Director, La Jolla Music Society

Since joining La Jolla Music Society as its president and artistic director in December of 2005, Christopher Beach has invigorated its programming, initiated a long-range plan to expand its artistic offerings and laid the foundation for an overhaul of its administration.

An internationally-respected arts manager, Beach previously held the position of director of The Performing Arts Center in Purchase, N.Y., for 16 years.

Beach has held numerous positions nationally, such as house manager for Baltimore’s Center Stage and production stage manager for many American opera companies including the Santa Fe Opera.

After co-founding the Santa Fe Festival Theatre in 1980, Beach returned to the Metropolitan Opera as operation director in 1985 where his responsibilities ranged from overseeing the ballet and chorus to managing all of its house management operations.

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A native of Pittsburgh, Beach received a bachelor’s degree in art history from The Johns Hopkins University. He currently resides in La Jolla.

Q: What brought you to La Jolla?

La Jolla Music Society. At the time I didn’t know whether La Jolla was north or south of San Francisco. My great grandfather, Aaron Ketchum Stiles, had moved to La Jolla in 1907 and later died here, but that had always been a footnote in our families’ completely East Coast genealogy. When I interviewed for the position of president and artistic director of La Jolla Music Society, I was compelled by the deep caring and commitment of the board members I met to bring the world’s greatest music to San Diego. That was an irresistible challenge.

Q: What makes La Jolla special to you?

The stop signs. I grew up in Hyannisport, Mass., which was also a small, and somewhat exclusive, summer resort community by the sea, albeit the stormy Atlantic, and there we had stop signs. I realize driving around La Jolla that, in a village of stop signs, it is incumbent upon everyone to show a little civility, “After you,” “Your turn next.” … And I like that.

Q: If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in La Jolla?

I have been here for almost two and a half years and I can’t imagine how to answer this question. I am still in that blind, wildly infatuated state of ‘first love’ with La Jolla. I love the seagull poop on my car. I love the few quirky homeless people who were described to me by another resident as ‘living an alternate lifestyle.’ I even love the possessiveness of old timers that are sure you have little to say of consequence until you have lived here for 25 years. I love it all.
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Q: Who or what inspires you?

Hard work, honesty, a genuine sense of humility, a quickness to forgive and the inner strength to reveal yourself to others.

Q: If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you invite?

Franz Liszt, because he was the first rock star; Ellen Revelle, because I would want someone with absolute grace; Serge Diaghilev, because he was the greatest impresario, having brought together dancers, painters and musicians; George Auguste Escoffier, because I know the dinner would be cooked right; Mahatma Gandhi, so I could learn what true selflessness was about; Chopin, because we might be lucky enough to have some impromptu after-dinner music and more especially because I would love to hear it, as he heard it; George Bernard Shaw, because I would want someone to entertain us with edgy stories of theatre, music and the world; and finally Joseph Campbell, because everyone else at the table had followed their bliss.

Katherine Hepburn and Frank Sinatra could come for drinks to remind me of my parents.

Q: Tell us about what you are currently reading.

I am a schizophrenic reader because I usually read five books at once. Today it is: “After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance;” “The Letters of Noel Coward,” edited by Barry Day; “National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways/The 275 Best Drives in the U.S.;” “Chinese Imperial Dynasties 1600BC-AD 1912;” and “Claudius the God.”

Q: What is your most prized possession?

Portraits of Richard Earl Beach, Harriet Anne Mize, Jane Mershon Brower, Charles Homan Brower and James Elias Mershon; my father, my great-great-grandmother, my great-great-great-grandfather and mother and my great-great-great-great-grandfather.

Q: What do you do for fun?

Travel and eat. No place in the world gives me greater happiness than Venice, Italy, but I can drive for days with the top down around Umbria or Andalusia and now around Tahoe or along Big Sur and be in heaven. At the same time I can drive for three hours out of my way just for a special local cheese or a Poulet de Bresse.

Q: Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

On June 26, I will celebrate 30 extraordinarily happy years together with my partner, Wesley Fata. In that time we have built a life, and that is the accomplishment. Everyday he still makes me laugh and every day I still learn from him how to be humble, patient, more sensitive to others and to try to be centered in all I do. I hope it’s working.

Q: What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Every great religion from Confucius to Christ and from Muhammad to Martin Luther teaches just what my mother taught us over and over as children: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” My own personal philosophy has, for a very long time been, “Ah, je gagne, dit le renard, à cause de la couleur du ble " which, translated means, “It has done me good, said the fox, because of the color of the wheat fields.” This is taken from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince and speaks to the rewards gained though the effort of love and the power of memory.
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