History and Mission

Our Mission

San Diego Symphony Orchestra – Changing Lives Through Music

The San Diego Symphony, through unquestionable commitment to the highest levels of artistic achievement, seeks to elevate human potential by providing a shared sense of pride and belonging to something bigger than any of us can achieve alone. We offer audiences the wonder of live music and transformative learning experiences that develop and understanding and passion for the arts. To ensure we are an enduring force in the region we commit to fiscal responsibility. We serve and shape the culture of the region, by being for all and with all, the musical heart of San Diego.

Strive: Always the Best

Learn: Creative, Expressive, Curious

Reach: Music for Everyone

Ignite: Spark Passion

An Introduction

En Español

The San Diego Symphony Orchestra performed its first concert on December 6, 1910. In the 100-plus years since its inception, the SDSO has become one of the leading orchestras in the United States and was designated a Tier 1 Orchestra by the League of American Orchestras in 2010. It is committed to providing musical experiences of superior quality for the greater San Diego community and beyond. Through a rich mixture of innovative and educational programming designed to appeal to all ages and cultures, the Symphony makes music an integral part of the cultural and intellectual fabric of Southern California, valued by and relevant to all its residents. The Music Director Designate of the San Diego Symphony is Rafael Payare.

The Orchestra offers wide range of concert experiences and performs more than 140 concerts each year. The SDSO's performances at the Jacobs Music Center and beyond include:

  • Jacobs Masterworks offers traditional classical repertoire and features guest artists such as Joshua Bell, Lang Lang and Gil Shaham. Rush Hour 2.0 is a shorter, Thursday night edition of Jacobs Masterworks, given 3-4 times each season.
  • City Lights features popular guest artists such as Rickie Lee Jones, Lea Salonga and Michael Feinstein.
  • Family Concerts feature family-friendly concerts and an opportunity to expose children to classical music.
  • The Fox Theatre Film Series shows classic Silent Era films and contemporary favorites. The Hall’s built-in, mighty Fox Theatre Robert Morton Theater Organ often accompanies the classics of the Silent Film Era while modern films are screened with the San Diego Symphony providing the musical soundtrack.
  • Jazz @ The Jacobs brings together the finest local and international artists of modern jazz music at the Jacobs Music Center.
  • The Chamber Music Series is presented at La Jolla's Auditorium at TSRI and The Conrad, bringing together world-class performers and musicians of the Orchestra for intimate musical encounters.
  • Each summer, from Fourth of July weekend through Labor Day, the Orchestra presents an outdoor Bayside Summer Nights season at Embarcadero Marina Park South, mixing classical favorites and pop music on San Diego’s picturesque waterfront.

Our Home

Historic Copley Symphony Hall inside the Jacobs Music Center is regarded as one of the finest classical music venues on the West Coast. Originally built in 1929 as The Fox Theatre, this lush movie palace style hall became the property of the SDSO in 1984. The beauty and majesty of this historic hall added to the stature and artistic growth of SDSO. In October 2013, the complex consisting of Copley Symphony Hall, the newly renovated lobbies, the backstage areas, the Grosvenor Family Musicians' Center and the Symphony administrative offices was officially named the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Music Center.



The Gift

On January 14, 2002, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra celebrated the announcement of the single largest donation ever made to a Symphony Orchestra, totaling $120 million. This pledged gift was generously given by Joan and Irwin Jacobs, solidifying a sustained period of stability for the orchestra marked by what has now been over 15 straight years of balanced budgets. At the time of the gift, The New York Times declared the San Diego Symphony Orchestra was "placed firmly on the nation’s musical landscape" as a result of this news. (Click here for a thorough explanation of the Jacobs Gift as detailed in a Voice of San Diego story on the 10th Anniversary of the Gift.)

The Music Director

Internationally acclaimed conductor Rafael Payare will become the orchestra’s next music director with a four-year contract that begins on July 1, 2019. Payare will debut at the San Diego podium in his role as Music Director Designate in January 2019, when he kicks off the fourth annual San Diego Symphony January festival. Payare succeeds Conductor Laureate Jahja Ling, whose tenure as music director began in 2004-05 and culminated in the 2016-17 season. Beginning in the 2019-20 season, Payare will become music direcctor and will conduct the Orchestra for 10 weeks each season, including performances in the Bayside Summer Nights series at the orchestra’s summer home.

The Tour

The San Diego Symphony Orchestra made history on October 29, 2013 with its first appearance ever at New York's Carnegie Hall, performing a sold-out concert with pianist Lang Lang under the baton of Jahja Ling. A subsequent China Friendship Tour took the orchestra through concert dates in Shanghai, Yantai (San Diego's "Sister City") and Beijing November 1-11.

The Book

The full authoritative history of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra through the early 21st century can be found in San Diego Symphony: From Overture to Encore by Symphony Archivist Dr. Melvin G. Goldzband

The San Diego Symphony has a Do Not Call policy as detailed here.

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The San Diego Symphony is listed in The Patriots Connection’s San Diego Directory. The Patriots Connection (through Rancho Santa Fe Foundation) rigorously evaluates its Directory organizations on eight essential criteria to determine their effectiveness, efficiency and use of best practices in serving local military, veterans and their families.