San Diego Jazz Ventures and The Alexandria to celebrate music and life sciences synergy at new concert series – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Veteran La Jolla Athenaeum Music & Arts Library jazz program coordinator Daniel Atkinson didn’t have to look far to secure an ideal venue for his new San Diego Jazz Ventures.

It debuts with outdoor concerts by bass virtuoso Ben Williams on Aug. 21 and vocal dynamo Gretchen Parlato on Aug. 28 at The Alexandria at Torrey Pines, which bills itself as “a unique destination for San Diego’s life science and technology communities.” The Alexandria is just a few miles north of the Athenaeum.

Atkinson also didn’t have to look far for new board members — two are also on the Athenaeum’s board — although the coronavirus pandemic shutdown led to a 16-month postponement of last year’s planned launch of San Diego Jazz Ventures.

His ambitious nonprofit arts organization is designed to complement the ongoing jazz concert series at the Athenaeum, which Atkinson has expertly guided since its inception in 1989. He is also the driving force behind the 25-year-old Athenaeum jazz series at Scripps Research Institute’s California Auditorium (formerly the Neurosciences Institute Auditorium).

“This is a terrific opportunity to present music at The Alexandria,” said Atkinson, who is also the executive director of the Western Jazz Presenters Network.

“For every artist I am able to book for an Athenaeum concert — and we have three coming up between Saturday and Aug. 14 that are all sold out — I hear from four or five other great artists who would also love to come perform here.

“That has led to a little frustration: ‘If only we could also bring this artist or that artist here, too.’ Now, we can do an additional concert every other month if we want.”

Atkinson’s enthusiasm is shared by his fellow San Diego Jazz Ventures board members and by Daniel Ryan, the co-chief investment officer and San Diego regional market director for the national Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.

“Putting on a jazz concert series is a great fit for our community and we’re thrilled to be able to do this,” said Ryan, whose company is sponsoring the concerts at The Alexandria and providing its facilities free of charge.

“I’m a jazz fan and the more we expose people to jazz and get them exited, the better,” he continued. “With the pandemic easing up, these concerts are a fun way to let people feel normal again.”

‘Extremely synergistic’

Acclaimed jazz singer Gretchen Parlato will perform at The Alexandria at Torrey Pines on Aug. 28 with her band.

Acclaimed jazz singer Gretchen Parlato will perform at The Alexandria at Torrey Pines on Aug. 28.

(Photo courtesy San Diego Jazz Ventures)

San Diego Jazz Ventures board member Ida Deichaite is equally enthused about the new partnership with The Alexandria.

“It’s extremely synergistic,” said Deichaite, the industry relations director at UC San Diego Health Moores Cancer Center. She introduced Atkinson to The Alexandria’s Ryan, which led to the Athenaeum presenting a well-attended indoor 2019 concert at The Alexandria by Israeli-born jazz clarinet star Anat Cohen.

“The more possibilities, venues and support there is for jazz and culture, the more it grows and attracts people to come to San Diego,” Deichaite noted.

“Jazz is such a great and unique American invention that is very harmonious with science. You cannot be a great scientist if you are not improvising and stepping up. And that’s what jazz musicians do all the time with courage and beauty.”

Atkinson agreed, adding: “San Diego Jazz Ventures’ new series will highlight jazz artists from around the world who are opening up new pathways at the highest level of the art form, just as San Diego’s biotech and wireless communities are creating innovative new technologies that change the way we experience an interact with the world.”

San Diego Jazz Ventures’ other board members underscore this resonance. They include: Louis Lupin, Qualcomm’s former executive vice president and general counsel; Lee McCracken, the CEO of Drawbridge Health; Tad Parzen, the president and CEO of Burnham Center for Community Advancement; and Pascale Bauer, the former managing director of Diadeis LatAm in Brazil.

What specifically inspired San Diego Jazz Ventures’ quest to bring together the worlds of jazz, life sciences and technology?

Atkinson points to San Diego-based health technology giant CareFusion, which from 2009 to 2011 was the title sponsor of some of the world’s most prestigious annual jazz events, including the Newport Jazz Festival. It was a groundbreaking collaboration from both sides of the equation.

Jazz festival a goal

“We looked at different ways we could launch our brand, including traditional advertising and the web, but jazz is unique,” CareFusion Vice President said Jim Mazzola told the Union-Tribune in 2010.

“We found that jazz has been used in medical schools to help teach communication skills to students. We also found that jazz, in marketing terms, indexes really well with our customers, who are the decision-makers at hospitals. Jazz is of great interest to them.”

The success CareFusion had with its three-year jazz festival sponsorship was palpable, according to Rhonda Thomas Farrell. She is the CEO of the Los Altos-based Exordium Group, Inc., which helped engineer CareFusion’s jazz festival sponsorship.

“It’s a very interesting crossover, Farrell said. “What I found, when we were doing our research, is that many physicians literally made the choice between going to medical school or becoming jazz musicians. I’ve never heard of that being the case in any other field.

“CareFusion’s jazz sponsorship was really successful and generated millions of dollars in new business for CareFusion. So, I think what Dan is doing with San Diego Jazz Ventures and The Alexandria will be a great fit.”

Not coincidentally, Atkinson and The Alexandria’s Ryan hope that what is now a budding jazz concert series can evolve into a full-fledged, multiday festival.

“I expect that, within the next couple of years, we’d like to make a San Diego Jazz Ventures festival a fixture at our Campus Pointe location immediately east of Scripps Hospital,” Ryan said. “It is a much bigger venue with much larger outdoor spaces and abundant parking.”

“We are certainly open to the idea of other venues,” Atkinson concurred. “And maybe The Alexandria series will evolve to the point of being a monthly event. They have a couple of really nice indoor spaces that we could put into play for winter and early spring, so we won’t only do outdoor concerts there.”

The August performances by Williams and Parlato with their respective bands will be held on The Alexandria’s sprawling lawn. Attendance will be capped at 250 to give attendees ample space.

The tree-lined complex houses a theater, meeting rooms, a gym and other amenities. It is also home to the Farmer and the Seahorse restaurant, where concertgoers who dine before and after the performances will receive a 25 percent discount.

“We originally planned for four concerts at The Alexandria, and we are already discussing the possibility of the next two events,” said Atkinson, whose late father was a noted San Diego structural engineer.

“I used to attend Christmas concerts at the Salk Institute and I had a number of conversations with Jonas Salk. He said his original vision — in part — was to bridge the gap between the sciences and humanities. He was working off a theory called ‘The Two Cultures’ that a British scientist had written about. …

“Many members of the Athenaeum are from the health, science and technology fields, and Joan and Irwin Jacobs are among the most generous contributors and constant audience members. The connection between music, science and technology has always been very strong to me.”

San Diego Jazz Ventures presents the Ben Williams Band and Gretchen Parlato

When: 5 p.m. Aug. 21 (Williams) and Aug. 28 (Parlato)

Where: The Alexandria at Torrey Pines, 10996 Torreyana Road, San Diego

Tickets: $50 (general admission), $100 (front-row seating with complimentary tapas); admission includes a complimentary glass of wine for concertgoers 21 and up.