John Pizzarelli joins Symphony for concert at Salk


The San Diego sunset amidst the cool breezes of the La Jolla coastline is the picture perfect setting for Symphony at Salk.

This year’s 13th annual fundraiser, which benefits biological research and community programs supported by the Salk Institute, takes place Aug. 23 at the Theodore Gildred Court and features the San Diego Symphony with guest singer and jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli. The Symphony, under the direction of guest conductor Thomas Wilkins, will accompany Pizzarelli and entertain with selections of Carmen Suites No. 1 & 2 and other classical melodies.

Aspiring to fulfill a dream takes a fortitude that Pizzarelli has clearly accomplished by turning his guitar playing, which he began at age 6, into a versatile career. His father, Bucky Pizzarelli, became a legend on the guitar and influenced his son to love jazz music from artists such as Erroll Garner and Les Paul. At age 20, Pizzarelli took what his father taught him and set off on his own career. He became a bandleader for RCA, appeared in the Broadway musical “Dream,” hosted the “New York Tonight” radio show for four years, has released 21 albums and is a frequent guest on televisions shows.

Pizzarelli and his band have a range of classics that often earns the trio comparisons to jazz icon Nat “King” Cole. His recently released album, “With A Song in My Heart,” features songs written by American songwriter Richard Rodgers as well as Nat King Cole and Gershwin tunes. “This Can’t be Love,” “Easy to Remember” and “World On A String,” are among the 12 songs Pizzarelli will perform at Symphony at Salk.

“It’s always great to play in San Diego with the Symphony, and I enjoy themed events,” said Pizzarelli, who includes pop, jazz and swing in his music repertoire. “Basically I’ll be sailing around the classics.”

In addition to accompanying Pizzarelli, the Symphony will perform Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin: Polonaise” and Rossin’s “La Gazza Ladra” among other selections.

“I always enjoy this event and working with the San Diego orchestra,” Wilkins said. “I also respect Salk for the work they’re doing. It’s inspiring to be around these dedicated intellectuals.”

This is Wilkins’ fourth appearance at Symphony at Salk.

Serving as honorary chair of Symphony at Salk is internationally renowned artist Francoise Gilot-Salk, widow of Jonas Salk. Her 1962 artwork, The Oracle, chosen from her Labyrinth series, provides this year’s visual theme.

The Salk Institute is a designated historical site. Designed by architect Louis I. Kahn, the facility is one of the world’s most honored structures.

“The setting of this venue adds so many elements to this evening,” Wilkins said. “You have the incredible visual backgrounds representing beauty and inspiration, and then to add the mix of John’s classic tunes and the orchestra’s classical selections; it’s a like a marriage of music representing mankind’s great musical achievements with Salk’s technological accomplishments. It’s truly amazing.”

The evening begins with a cocktail reception. Dinner is being catered by Jeffrey Strauss, owner/chef of Pamplemousse Grill in Del Mar, and will be followed by the musical program.

Wilkins thinks the diversity of the evening’s music will appeal to those attending and sees similarities between pop songs and classical music.

“The Symphony likes to create a blend of both pop artists and classical music,” he said. “Both genres have qualities that stand the test of time. These genres represent great thought. Those attending Symphony at Salk will enjoy the best of both worlds.”

Symphony at Salk

  • 5:15 p.m. Aug. 23
  • The Theodore Gildred Court
  • 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla
  • $250; (858) 453-4100, ext. 1882

Watch the Salk

time-lapse camera capture the set up for Symphony at Salk (a three-day process) in 90 seconds.