Music Center sells time with Gehry and Domingo in online auction

The financial well-being of nonprofit arts organizations typically depends on ticket-buying fans and check-writing philanthropists, but the Music Center is trying to bring complete strangers into the mix — including some who might never set foot on Bunker Hill, or for that matter, the West Coast.

Its first-ever online auction is going on right now, with 36 items up for bid. They range from what you might expect — living it up at the Los Angeles Opera’s opening night gala on Sept. 15, then capping the evening by getting to hobnob briefly with Plácido Domingo — to things as far afield as a “Star Wars” Xbox game.

Jennifer Samsel, assistant vice president for fundraising at the Music Center, said the goal is to raise $100,000 or more in bidding that will close Wednesday afternoon. That’s for 35 of the items. The 36th is naming rights to a dressing room at Walt Disney Concert Hall — a sale that will go through only if the top bid is at least $100,000. As of Monday evening, a single bidder had ventured $9,500.

Another big-ticket item in the bidding that began May 9 is a chance to give a performance at Disney Hall, for an audience of 20 of your own invitees. The Music Center will provide a piano gratis; any other instruments you’d have to carry onstage yourself. Other restrictions include no drum kits, and a selection of eight dates on which the gig can take place. A single bid of $2,900 had come in as of Monday evening; the estimated value is $20,000.


For those who’d rather eat their supper than sing or play for it, the Music Center is offering dinner for 10 on the Disney Hall stage, catered by the Patina Restaurant Group. Bidding stood at $2,500.

Architecture buffs can bid on an hour-long guided tour of Disney Hall by Frank Gehry, the man who designed it. It was going for $3,000 as of Monday afternoon. The other celebrity “get” is a two-hour lunch with Jacqueline Emerson, the teenage actress who plays Foxface in “The Hunger Games.”

Arts prizes include prime seats for “Mary Poppins” at the Ahmanson, with a backstage tour, and box seats at the Hollywood Bowl on nights when Gustavo Dudamel is conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Sports buffs can bid on tickets for the Dodgers, Lakers, USC football, a New Year’s Day outing to the Tournament of Roses and the Rose Bowl, or a round of golf at the Bel-Air Country Club.

In the past, Samsel said, the Music Center has done auctions at its galas and other live fundraising events. This is the first time it has widened its net to potentially include anyone with online access. The auctioneer is, a company that she said will get 20% of the take for hosting the auction on its website and handling other logistics — including promoting the auction to about 65,000 people on its emailing list, substantially increasing the pool of bidders the Music Center could likely command on its own.

All auction items are donated, Samsel said, so the only expense for the Music Center is the time that staff members and volunteers have put into rounding up stuff to sell.

The bidding will help push the Music Center toward its goal of $9.2 million in donations for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Proceeds go toward general operations, including arts education programs and presenting touring dance companies at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.


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