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The San Diego Symphony

History and Performances

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 the San Diego Region.

In the decades since its inception in 1910, the San Diego Symphony has grown to become one of the leading orchestras in the United States, and the first in California to reach the landmark of 100 years of performance history. 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 the San Diego region, valued by and relevant to all its residents.


Many renowned conductors have held the position of Music Director of the San Diego Symphony, including Earl Bernard Murray, Robert Shaw, David Atherton, Yoav Talmi and Jahja Ling. Since 2019, Rafael Payare has served as the symphony's Music Director.


The San Diego Symphony performs numerous concerts each season, with artists as varied as Yo-Yo Ma, Yes, Charlotte Church and Cirque Eloise. Performances include the Masterworks series, offering traditional classical repertoire and featuring guest artists as Pinchas Zukerman, Hilary Hahn and Angel Romero; the Winter Pops series, featuring popular guest artists such as Dave Brubeck, Johnny Mathis and Arturo Sandoval, as well as annual holiday programs; and a Family Festival series that presents family-friendly concerts. Each summer, the symphony also presents an outdoor season, which now unfolds in the beautiful, waterfront Rady Shell at Jacobs Park along the San Diego Embarcadero.


Most recently, the symphony released a live recording of Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 11: “The Year 1905," with Payare conducting.

In 2012, the symphony, under Jahja Ling, released Never Far Away – Music of Bright Sheng. Years in the making, this studio release features a world premiere performance on CD of Bright Sheng’s "Never Far Away," his harp concerto especially written for the soloist on this recording, Yolanda Kondonassis.

Before that, the San Diego Symphony produced 10 highly acclaimed recordings on the Naxos, Pro Arte and Telarc labels. Recordings include "Masters of Mayhem," a collection of works from Hitchcock movies, Berlioz’ "Romeo and Juliet," Brahms’ "Four Serious Songs" and a transcription of Sextet No.1 for orchestra, Gliere’s Symphony No. 3, and a collection of music from children’s films and cartoons titled "The Magical Mystical Mouse."

Copley Symphony Hall

Historic Copley Symphony Hall, home of the San Diego Symphony, is regarded as one of the finest classical music venues on the West Coast. Originally built in 1929 as a premiere movie house (Fox Theater), this lush, French Rococo-style hall was conferred to the Symphony in 1984. The beauty and majesty of this historic hall has added to the stature and artistic growth of San Diego Symphony. (Note: Symphony Hall is under renovation and is expected to reopen in Fall 2023.)

The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park

Opened in 2021, The Rady Shell is the majestic jewel of the San Diego waterfront. The symphony's outdoor home rises from the Embarcadero just steps from the bay, and is a supremely inviting place to take in a concert, watch summer fireworks or just enjoy a picnic on its broad swath of lawn (the entire venue doubles as a public park when events are not going on). Built for $85 million, The Shell has been called San Diego's answer to the Hollywood Bowl, and already has become a signature of the Downtown cityscape.

Awards and Recognition

In 1983, San Diego Symphony’s then composer-in-residence, Bernard Rands, won the Pulitzer Prize, furthering the symphony's outstanding reputation. In 1998, the symphony toured the West Coast with Andrea Bocelli.

On Jan. 14, 2002, the symphony celebrated the announcement of the single largest donation ever made to a symphony orchestra, totaling $120 million. The gift, generously given by Joan and Irwin Jacobs, launched the symphony’s New World Endowment Campaign, designed to ensure the future stability of the orchestra. The New York Times declared the San Diego Symphony had been “placed firmly on the nation’s musical landscape” as a result of this news.

Get more information about the San Diego Symphony and a Complete Performance Schedule. To purchase tickets, call 619-235-0804.

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