Music Center's 25th: More Glitter, Glamour

Times Staff Writer

Never let it be said that the Music Center has stinted on the celebration of its 25th year. Black-tie dinners, a gala performance, fireworks and awards make up the remainder of the year's commemorative events.

"We started planning this two years ago, and the pieces of the puzzle are just fitting together," Nancy Olson Livingston says as she eagerly dissects the list of parties and other affairs slated for the coming months.

The highlight of the year, according to Livingston, is the three-day weekend beginning Friday, Sept. 22.

"It's something that's social and celebratory and also the peak of the fund-raising," she says.

Former Blue Ribbon Head

One of the co-chairs of the 25th anniversary year (along with Lodwrick Cook, chairman and CEO of Arco and a member of the Music Center's executive committee, and F. Daniel Frost of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, also president of the Music Center Foundation), Livingston is a former president of the Blue Ribbon and currently serves on the Music Center's board of governors. Working with her on the project is Debbie Tellefsen, vice chair of the gala.

Sitting in a small office in the Music Center's annex, Livingston explains the first event of the weekend, a dinner for the Music Center's new International Council, a support group made up of internationally recognized entertainment industry bigwigs and prominent business people.

The council will gather at the home of financier/developer David Murdock.

"This gives them an opportunity to get together," Livingston explains. "There's no meeting, this isn't a formal gathering of the council, but Lod Cook wanted to have an occasion that would be a kind of bonding so they'd feel connected to us."

The following night is the black-tie patron party at the Huntington Library in San Marino for those who have made $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 donations during the anniversary year.

"This gives us an opportunity to give something back to our most generous patrons," says Livingston. "This is a private, intimate dinner celebration saying 'Thank you.' It will be the kind of party that I used to go to when I was married to (lyricist) Alan Jay Lerner and we'd go to Ira Gershwin's home in the '50s and Oscar Levant would play the piano and Ira would get up and sing. I've never forgotten that feeling. We're trying to re-create that kind of atmosphere."

Performance Gala Follows

The celebration then moves from the intimate to the elaborate with the celebration and performance gala at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Sunday night.

Preceding the gala is a champagne reception on the Music Center Plaza for all ticket-holders, with ticket prices starting at $8.

Slated for the show (which will be taped and broadcast on public television in January) are the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Joffrey Ballet, the Los Angeles Music Center Opera, Master Chorale and works from the Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson Theatre. Carol Burnett and Kirk Douglas have also been signed for the gala.

After the performance, patrons who have contributed $2,000 and up will walk to a tented party on the site of the future Walt Disney concert hall as fireworks blaze.

The gala will mark the debut of the Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Awards sponsored by the International Council. Music Center artistic directors have chosen three Twentieth Century masters in the fields of theater, dance and music: conductor Zubin Mehta, stage director Hal Prince and New York City ballerina Suzanne Farrell.

They, in collaboration with the artistic directors, will choose three young artists of the future, one in each field, who will each receive $25,000 and an original Robert Graham sculpture.

"I'm thrilled the awards are finally here," Livingston says as she explains her longtime wish for such a program and the hours spent hammering out details with Ernest Fleischmann, executive vice president of the Philharmonic, and Mark Taper artistic director Gordon Davidson.

"That's been my major accomplishment. We will have raised well over $2 million (from the anniversary) but nothing pleases me more than the awards."

The year concludes with a celebration on the Music Center Plaza Dec. 6, the date of the first performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion that marked the official opening of the Music Center (featuring Jascha Heifetz and Zubin Mehta conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic). The event will be free to the public.

And after it's all over, major patrons can reminisce about the Music Center in Hawaii. David Murdock is hosting a "Lanai Weekend" on the island of Lanai Feb. 16-19 for $25,000 donors.

There is plenty to keep Music Center supporters busy until then. Nancy Livingston breathes a major sigh and announces: "I've got to run to the next appointment. I'm racing every day."

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