Mission, Vision, and History

David Chase conducting
Mission & Vision

Rooted in San Diego for over 60 years, the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus enriches our lives through affordable concerts of ground-breaking, traditional and contemporary music.

The performance ensemble is affiliated with the University of California, San Diego, performing six concert weekends a year at UCSD's Mandeville Auditorium as well as special concerts at other venues in Southern California. The LJS&C is an independent, non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation, comprised of volunteer musicians from all walks of life, including community members, UCSD students, staff and faculty, as well as professional musicians - a diverse group with exceptional talent and passion for the music it performs.

The LJS&C is dedicated to keeping the spirit of community music-making vibrant for future generations. It provides educational in-reach by bringing students to open rehearsals, concerts and music clinics and outreach to City and County school children.

Cutting Edge Classical Music Concerts

LJS&C's dedication to uncommon music has resulted in programming in which 40% or more of its performances include premieres, recent compositions, and/or rarely performed orchestral and choral works. Examples of this adventurous programming include:

  • The American premiere of Philip Glass' Cello Concerto.
  • Sitar Concerto No. 1 by Ravi Shankar, performed with his daughter, Anoushka Shankar.
  • The commissioning and world premiere of Concerto for Mariachi and Orchestra by Jeff Nevin.
  • The West Coast premiere of Ode to Common Things by Cary Ratcliff, an oratorio based on the poetry of Pablo Neruda.
  • The commissioning and world premiere of Linda Kernohan's Now A Wanderer, a work for chorus and orchestra based on the memoirs of female aviator Beryl Markham.

A Brief History

In 1954, a Bulgarian conductor who had spent most of his career in China had an idea. Peter Nicoloff had been chased out of China by the Communist Revolution, and now he found himself in La Jolla. He was a conductor without an orchestra. "Just for fun," he assembled a group of non-professional musicians from La Jolla and conducted them in what was modestly called an open rehearsal. No one could have foreseen the growth potential in that tiny band of amateur musicians. Over the next half-century, that orchestra (which eventually became the La Jolla Symphony) would give over 700 concerts, grow in size to 100 players, make recordings, commission new music, give premieres, and play concerts throughout San Diego County.

Nicoloff directed the La Jolla Symphony for 11 seasons before resigning. The small ensemble might easily have drifted into oblivion had help not arrived from an unexpected source. The University of California was establishing a campus in San Diego, and its new Music Department wished to have an orchestra. A partnership was born. The orchestra's new conductor and member of the UCSD faculty, Thomas Nee, set out to transform the orchestra, increasing the number of players, raising standards and championing new music. At the same time, the orchestra acquired a sister organization, the 60-voice La Jolla Symphony Chorus headed by Choral Director Patricia Smith. In 1973, David Chase took over the chorus and began developing it into the 130-voice ensemble we know today.

In 1998, Tom Nee stepped down as music director. His replacement, also from the UCSD faculty, was Harvey Sollberger, a composer, conductor, new-music specialist, and virtuoso flutist who explored musical territory even new to this adventurous orchestra. Sollberger's departure from the orchestra in 2005 began an unprecedented two-year search for a new music director that culminated in the spring of 2007 with the selection of internationally renowned percussionist and contemporary music advocate Steven Schick.

(Excerpts from "Celebrating 50 Years of Adventurous Music!" by Eric Bromberger)