Concerts in San Diego: Inside the Classical Music Scene

Classical Concert Guide In San DiegoWhen most people think of San Diego, they think of surf and sunshine. But as a resident of the city, you know there’s also a thriving classical music scene. You can make Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Rachmaninoff, and the other great composers in history a part of your daily life by going to one of the many classical concerts in San Diego and listening to classical radio.

Live Classical Music in San Diego

There’s nothing like the thrill of feeling the music of a professional orchestra vibrate through your body. Fortunately, you live in a big city with a rich appreciation for culture, so there are a lot of venues to find classical concerts in San Diego! Here are the top spots to hear the works of Mozart, Haydn, Chopin, Liszt, and other classical legends:

  • La Jolla Symphony and Chorus: Based in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in San Diego, the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus has brought classical and contemporary music to San Diego for more than five decades. This non-profit organization is made up of volunteer musicians, including professionals, students, and teachers. Concerts are performed at the Mandeville Auditorium on the University of California-San Diego campus (9500 Gilman Drive).

  • Camarada: This chamber music group is known for its creative interpretations of both classical works and forgotten pieces. The group focuses on Spanish and Latin music, including classic tango. The Camarada concert series includes shows at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park  (1439 El Prado, Plaza de Panama) and the Bread and Salt Art Gallery in Barrio Logan (1955 Julian Avenue). It also hosts classical chamber music recitals in private homes as part of its Saturday evening Cabernet Concert Series.

  • San Diego Symphony: The San Diego Symphony is one of the most distinguished orchestras in the United States, and you have plenty of chances to listen live, as it plays more than 100 concerts every year. In the summer, it also presents an outdoor concert series called Summer Pops at the Embarcadero Marina Park South (206 Marina Park Way).

  • SummerFest: The La Jolla Music Society hosts SummerFest each year, showcasing both local and international classical musicians. Concerts are held in La Jolla at St. James By-the-Sea (743 Prospect Street), The Auditorium at The Scripps Research Institute (10640 John Jay Hopkins Drive), and MCASD Sherwood Auditorium (700 Prospect Street).

Classical Music Radio Stations in San Diego

Can’t make it to one of the classical concerts in town this weekend? Don’t worry – you can still get some cultural enrichment by tuning in to one of the classical radio stations in San Diego:

  • XLNC1 104.9 FM: This is the only full-time classical music and opera radio station broadcasting in San Diego. It also offers live-streaming music on its website and posts its minute-to-minute schedule online.

  • KPBS: You can listen to Brahms, Vivaldi, and Handel on KPBS by heading to its website, where you can stream its various radio programs. This public radio affiliate is licensed to San Diego State University.

There are always new developments in the SD classical music scene, so keep an eye on all of the websites linked above, plus event listing pages like the San Diego Reader and the Department of Music Concert Calendar provided by UCSD. Keep your radio or computer tuned to classical music stations and use this guide to make sure you attend as many classical concerts in San Diego as possible. Have fun exploring the scene!


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Planning a Party or Event? How to Find San Diego Bands for Hire

Planning a Party or Event? How to Find San Diego Bands for HireLooking for the perfect San Diego bands for hire, so you have some great options for your upcoming event? Great! Here are some ways to connect with the one that will suit the occasion best – be it for a school dance, wedding, party, bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, quinceañera, or any type of celebration:

Know Your Audience

First of all, it’s crucial to know the style of music that the guests will most enjoy! If there are guests of honor at the event, you should do your best to accommodate their particular musical taste and possibly even compile a list of their favorite songs, so as you audition or interview San Diego bands for hire, you can include those requests to make sure they can play them at the event. In other words, the same band that would be an instant hit at a 50th wedding anniversary party may not have the repertoire your guests at a high school dance would enjoy dancing to.

How to Locate the Best Band for Your Event

There are a number of options here, and you may have to give them all a try in order to find the best option out of the many San Diego bands for hire. Here are some ideas:

  • Place a free ad on Craigslist – Head to the Community section and click on Musicians for a good starting point. You can also place your own free ad looking for bands; just be specific about the style of music you want, the date you’ll need them, and so forth. Under that same Community category, you’ll also find a heading labeled Events. Don’t forget to look under the “Gigs” category as well – both to post and see if bands have posted their own descriptions and contact information.

  • Ask friends who have organized events and hired San Diego bands for referrals or websites they went to when they were searching for local acts.

  • Perform a search on YouTube for “San Diego bands for hire” and check out the videos that come up. This is an excellent way to audition a band’s sound prior to coordinating a meeting or waiting for a demo. Plus, you can visually check out the band’s appearance, as well as their sound, to determine whether they’re a fit for your specific event.

  • is another option, but is less common nowadays with the growing popularity of YouTube. But it used to be a top site to find musicians, so is definitely worth a try.

  • Check out Yelp reviews that pop up when you search San Diego bands for hire.

Check Out Other Live Events/Parties with Bands Performing

If you’re out and about at another event, or a live performance by a San Diego band, such as at a street fair, casino, wedding, or corporate party, make sure you go up and request a business card. Most professional bands will have these readily available, as well as CDs for sale, and possibly even a free demo CD you can take with you. If they don’t have a card, ask them for their website, or at the very least a contact number; if the timing is right, tell the band leader or their agent (if that person is in attendance) the date of your upcoming event, and then get an estimate from them on the cost involved. Any band with experience should have a demo audio that you can share with anyone else involved in making the hiring decision.

It’s a good idea to create a “go-to” list of second- and third-choice bands, too. That way you’ll have a backup plan already in place should your first choice have a sudden change of schedule, band member personal emergency, etc. Besides, you’ll have other bands you like already filed away for any future events, too!

The Benefits of a Signed Contract/Agreement

For everyone’s protection – yours and the band’s – it’s smart to draft a simple contractual agreement that states the length of time the band is to play, what time they will be expected to start and stop, and the amount you’ll be paying them. Many professional San Diego bands for hire may require that you put down a deposit to lock in the performance date. That’s pretty standard procedure. If everyone agrees to the terms and signs a contract, that’s great. This prevents any last-minute surprises.

With these tips, you now have the beginning of a game plan to build upon as you search for San Diego bands for hire. Good luck and have fun planning your event!


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The San Diego Jazz Scene: Venues, Festivals, and More

San Diego Jazz SceneConsidered America’s classical music, jazz is a living art form, ever-changing and ever-growing. From Duke Ellington to Miles Davis, ragtime, swing, bop, and progressive jazz, the San Diego jazz scene offers an expressive, enriching experience for all ages.

New to San Diego jazz? Check it out on a local radio station:

  • Jazz 88.3 FM

KSDS Jazz 88.3 is a non-commercial, non-profit station that presents, preserves, and promotes the uniquely American art form of jazz through programming, events, and education. Its website offers a great calendar of upcoming San Diego jazz events!

  • Smooth Jazz 98.1 FM

KIFM plays adult contemporary music from pop to jazz and easy listening.

  • 89.5 KPBS Radio

National Public Radio (NPR) offers music from jazz artists performed on stages around the world during JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater. Stream it live from NPR Music.

  • 102.1 KPRi

This local, independent station broadcasts two hours of contemporary jazz every Sunday at 7 p.m. during its Lites-Out with Kelly Cole segment.

Attend a San Diego jazz festival:

November 26th through 30th, 2014, the Town & Country Hotel and Convention Center will host the “crown jewel of jazz festivals,” offering a wide variety of traditional jazz, dixieland, ragtime, swing, and rockabilly styles.

Memorial Day weekend, May 24th through 25th of 2014, the Payne Pest Management San Diego Jazz Festival will feature Jill Scott, Maxwell, Brian Culbertson, Jonathan Butler, Boney James, Ledisi, Leela James, and many more at La Costa Resort & Spa.

On Friday, April 4th, the MiraCosta College hosts the 8th annual Oceanside Jazz Festival, featuring 50 performing groups from schools around the U.S.

Learn to dance to San Diego jazz:

Jazz music can be sharp or smooth, quick or slow, subtle or strong. It incorporates techniques used in modern dance and ballet, training the body to isolate moving a single part while others remain still. It’s a great way to fit in a good workout, while enjoying jazz music at the same time!

The Civic Arts Program offers San Diego jazz dance classes at affordable prices for children and adults at 25 city recreation centers.

The San Diego Academy for performing arts offers beginner jazz dance classes for adults and children.

The California Ballet School also offers jazz dance classes for adults and children.

Looking for a more one-on-one approach? Search for a private dance teacher near you and book lessons with TakeLessons, offering many options for scheduling, pricing, location, and dance genres.

Just can’t get enough jazz? San Diego offers many jazz venues:

La Jolla’s Athenaeum Music & Arts Library presents concerts showcasing the rich and varied artistry of jazz at 1008 Wall St, La Jolla, CA 92037.

Music on Fridays and Saturdays each month features local San Diego jazz artists; you can find the monthly schedule posted online. The café is located at 8278 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942.

Croce’s showcases jazz and other styles four nights a week in their Ex-Patriate room, plus a Sunday jazz brunch at 2760 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103.

Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. the café offers performances by up-and-comers at 128 E St, Encinitas, CA 92024.

Enjoy San Diego jazz on Saturdays at Harry’s (4370 La Jolla Village Drive, #150, San Diego, CA 92122). Call ahead for reservations and featured artists.

Ki’s offers a Friday night concert series from 8:30-10:30 p.m. featuring a variety of jazz artists that can be enjoyed free with dinner or with a paid cover. Check out their website for upcoming artists. Located at 2591 SCH 101, Cardiff, CA 92007.

  • La Jolla Community Center

La Jolla Community Center’s Fourth Fridays Jazz Series is back once again. Doors open at 7 p.m., with shows at 8 p.m.. Visit their website for upcoming events. Located at 6811 La Jolla Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037.

MA4’s main stage offers ticketed concerts featuring various artists from across the country, often including jazz artists. Check out upcoming shows and purchase tickets on their website. Located at 3940 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103.

98 Bottles offers a fantastic calendar of San Diego jazz music. Check out the website for upcoming acts. Located at 2400 Kettner Ave, #110, Little Italy, CA 92101.

The Oceanside Museum of Art series features jazz artists in an open-air cocktail format with gourmet appetizers, desserts, and specialty wines at 704 Pier View Way, Oceanside, CA 92054.

Check out the Scripps Research Institute website for information on their jazz concert series held at 10640 John J. Hopkins Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037.

Sycamore Den offers free live music, hosting bands Thursdays at 9 p.m. and Sundays at 8 p.m. at 3391 Adams Ave, Normal Heights, CA 92116.

On the 2nd and 4th Friday of each month from 7-9:15 p.m., 4-5-piece bands and music ensembles perform jazz and contemporary music as part of a complimentary performing arts program from the San Diego International Airport Art Program, located at 3225 N Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101.

This Pacific Beach bar offers live music seven days a week at 873 Turquoise St, San Diego, CA 92109. Go happy, because they “reserve the right to refuse service to grumpy people in a hurry.”

Whatever your level or interest in jazz, there are so many opportunities to enrich and enliven your world with the San Diego jazz. Have fun!

Photo by woodleywonderworks


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Live Music At Casbah

9 San Diego Bars With Live Music

Live Music At CasbahLooking for live music in San Diego? Whether you’re looking for a grungy bar with a ’90s rocker feel, a speakeasy with a secret entrance, or maybe you’d like to enjoy a live Irish band while enjoying a pint of Guinness, San Diego has tons of live music opportunities all throughout the nightlife scene.

If you’re ready to dive into the scene, here are our top 10 picks for bars with live music in San Diego.

1.  Patrick’s Gaslamp Pub

428 F Street San Diego, CA 92101

Opened during the Prohibition in 1933, this pub has been in Downtown San Diego since the inception of the Gaslamp Quarter, and was the only place in the downtown area that had live music. Known as “the premier Blues and Live Music Club,” the venue features music every night of the week starting at 9pm. With a casual vibe, reasonably-priced drinks, and great on-stage talent nightly, it’s an excellent place to visit with a group of friends. There is no dress code, so you can enjoy the best of San Diego talent without getting dressed up.

2. The Casbah

   2501 Kettner Blvd, San Diego Ca 92102

With a reputation as one of the best concert venues in town, the Casbah is actually not a very large concert venue. In fact, it is a fairly small and relatively divey one. Hosting nationally recognized bands and little-known local bands, the Casbah runs the gambit. For the music lover looking for a night out, the Casbah is one of the top bars with live music in San Diego, boasting decent prices and a small setting. With standing room only, you can practically reach out and touch the performers. This venue is all ages for some shows, and 21+ for others, with prices ranging from free to top dollar for national acts. Check the concert calendar for upcoming shows, prices, and age restrictions.

3. Prohibition

548 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

If you’re looking to get dressed up and step back to a time of moonshiners and bathtub distilleries, then Prohibition is the place for you. Open Thursday through Saturday, they have a dress code and house rules for you to review before visiting. They offer live jazz, blues, or soul music depending on the night you visit, starting at 9:30pm; you can check their music calendar to see who is performing each night. If you are looking to impress your friends or date, take them to this hidden speakeasy bar. Located behind a law office door, visitors need to push the buzzer to be let in, then descend a set of red-light-lit stairs into the bar. Tip: show up early to avoid the line!

4. The Shout House

Ready for a raucous night out at one of our favorite San Diego bars with live music? If you’ve never seen dueling pianos before, the Shout House is quite an experience. This place is all about the music. The audience can place requests for the performers, who sit at face-to-face grand pianos and perform classic rock all night long. Open Tuesday through Sunday, the doors open at different times depending on the night of the week, with performers starting about an hour after doors open. There is no cover Sunday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. There are varying covers the other nights of the week, ranging from $5-$10 depending on your time of arrival and the night of the week.

5. Trisler’s Wine Bar

8555 Station Village Ln, San Diego CA 92108

Joining our list of San Diego bars with live music is this wine bar near Escala San Diego – Mission Valley. Trisler’s has musicians most nights starting at 7pm, with a list of performers available on their website. The bar has an intimate vibe, enhanced by rich dark woods and candles set out on tables, making this is a great place for a romantic date. With great happy hour prices around $5 per pour and a rotating selection of wines on the menu, this is an excellent spot for the music and wine lover.

6. The Field

544 5th Ave, San Diego CA. 92101

San Diego has a vibrant Irish bar scene, with bars hosting live music most nights and frequently accompanied by Irish dancers. Located in the Gaslamp Quarter, the Field hosts live music by Eamon Carroll on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday starting at 8:30pm. On Fridays, they host different bands (usually leaning toward the Irish-punk rock variety) that typically start at 9pm. They have no cover charge, maintain music levels that allow you to converse with your companion, and have great live performances.

7. Seven Grand

3054 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

Seven Grand sets the bar high for upscale whiskey bars. Boasting an eclectic array of musicians on various nights, we recommend checking out their events calendar to see what musicians will be playing when you’re planning to visit.

8. Bar Pink

3829 30th Street, San Diego, CA 92104

If you are looking for a bar with cheap drinks, good music, and a laid-back atmosphere, Bar Pink fits the bill. With live music every night at 9pm except Sundays, and no cover, this is a great spot to catch some of San Diego’s best local bands. While a bit of a glammed-up dive, this bar has excellent cocktails, great music, and a casual vibe.

9. Soda Bar

3615 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego CA 92104

With a small stage and a small venue, you can often lose sound quality – but at Soda Bar the sound maintains its quality. With local bands opening for touring bands, this venue offers a great opportunity for new acts to get heard.  This 21+ venue hosts live music every night of the week, so be sure to leave the kiddies at home.  With cover charges ranging from free to $20, this is a great small venue to check out a local band or a touring band.

Photo by peyri


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7 Ways to Boost Your Creativity, San Diego Style

boost creativityStuck in a rut? As a creative type, that feeling can be the worst. Whether you’re under deadline at work or just finding it difficult to keep up a hobby like playing an instrument, we’ve all been there. Especially for kids taking music lessons, providing alternate outlets for creativity can make a huge difference when motivation starts waning.

So what can you do to boost your creativity and get inspired? There are a lot of ideas out there to help – and for us San Diegans, we have opportunities practically everywhere we look.

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San Diego Music Venues for the Perfect Night Out

San Diego music venuesPlanning a night out on the town? Whether you want to lounge alongside some live jazz or jam with the hottest tour booked at one of San Diego’s outdoor concert venues, the city is full of live music on any given night. At TakeLessons, we’re all about experiencing music and the arts, in every way possible. And there’s nothing quite like the rush you feel seeing a great band or the way a moving art exhibit can expand your creative mind.


Here are some of our favorite San Diego music venues to check out:

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San Diego Museum Month: Our Favorites for Music Lovers

San Diego museums

It’s almost February, and that means Museum Month! This year marks the event’s 25th annual celebration, offering half-off admission to more than 40 San Diego museums.

While San Diego is best known for its many outdoor activities, nothing beats an afternoon browsing a local museum. With so many different museums located throughout the county, you can find something for everyone, from science buffs to SoCal surfer bros. And this February, there are several options for music and arts enthusiasts in particular – right up our alley here at TakeLessons!

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San Diego’s Top 10 Hot Spots: Open Mic and Karaoke

karaokeIt’s a new year, and a great time to set some new goals! What do you want to achieve? Where do you want to be with your music-making this time next year?

Whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been playing for years, performing in front of others is a great way to increase your confidence – not to mention show off what you’ve accomplished!

Here in America’s Finest City, there are tons of events to improve your musical chops, from low-key karaoke bars to crowded open mics in San Diego. And it’s not just for singers. Many open mic nights cater to all types of instruments, from drums to guitar to keyboard. It’s also easy to find all-ages events, if you’re looking for some family-friendly fun.

Nervous? Don’t worry – everyone is the first time they perform on stage! But the more you perform, the easier it will get. You might feel comfortable checking out a few events to get a feel for the environment before getting up on stage, and that’s totally fine.

To get you started, here are a some of our favorite San Diego open mic nights and karaoke venues:

1) Cosmos Coffee Cafe – La Mesa
8278 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942
Open mic, Tuesdays at 7pm
All ages

2) Lestat’s West – Normal Heights 
3343 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Open mic, Mondays at 6:30pm
All ages

3) Blarney Stone Pub – Clairemont
5617 Balboa Ave, San Diego, CA 92111
Open mic, Sundays at 9pm

4) Rebecca’s Coffee House – South Park
3015 Juniper St, San Diego, CA 92104
Open mic, Tuesdays 7 pm – 9:30 pm (except the third Tuesday of the month)
All ages

5) Queen Bee’s Art & Cultural Center – North Park
3925 Ohio Street, San Diego, CA 92104
Open mic (poetry, comedy, and musicians), Tuesdays 8pm
All ages

6) South Park Abbey – South Park
1946 Fern Street, San Diego, California 92102
Open mic, Wednesdays 9pm
All ages

7) E Street Cafe – Encinitas
128 W E St, Encinitas, CA 92024
Open mic, Tuesdays 6pm
All ages

8) Lamplighter – Mission Hills
817 W Washington St, San Diego, CA 92103
Karaoke, every night 9pm

9) Champ’s Lounge – Clairemont
3050 Clairemont Drive, Clairemont CA 92117
Karaoke, Fridays 9pm

10) Chorus Karaoke and Cafe – Kearny Mesa
4428 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
Private karaoke rooms

For up-to-date information, be sure to contact the venue.

See Also: Need help selecting a song to sing? Check out our top picks for karaoke songs.

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