L.A. Phil celebrates 100 years with gala, concert and nighttime drone display


Asked by Los Angeles Philharmonic Chief Executive Chad Smith to lead a toast to take the L.A. Phil into the next century, Gustavo Dudamel raised a glass to all those seated in the Music Center plaza, saluting the musicians, board members, L.A. Phil’s leadership past and present, the children of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and the city of Los Angeles.

“To this wonderful orchestra, to all the musicians that make this institution what it is,” said the L.A. Phil’s music and artistic director. “To friendship — to this wonderful and beautiful connection that music makes, as we see music builds bridges. It doesn’t build borders.”


Smith then suggested guests look toward City Hall, where 300 drones filled the sky, performing a sound and light show. The drones assembled and reassembled to dramatize the orchestra’s century, forming the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl and the name “YOLA” and last, “LA Phil 100” in the sky.

The event

Held Thursday, 100 years to the day that the orchestra staged its first concert, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s centennial celebration concert and gala raised $4.6 million to support the organization’s music education programs.

For the occasion, three of the L.A. Phil’s living music directors, Zubin Mehta, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Dudamel, took turns on the Disney Hall stage to lead works by Wagner, Ravel, Lutoslawski and Stravinsky, finally teaming up to conduct the world premiere of composer Daníel Bjarnason’s “From Space I Saw Earth.”

The scene


Before the concert, Deborah Borda, the former L.A. Phil president and chief executive officer, headed into the cocktail reception on Grand Avenue, stopping to chat with the many friends she encountered along the way. Now president and chief executive officer of the New York Philharmonic, Borda said, “I came back just for this. You don’t turn 100 every day.”

Further inside the party area, comedian, TV host and author Loni Love shared a table with boyfriend James Welsh. “I used to play French horn,” Love said. “I started in elementary school, and when I went to college, I played the mellophone in a marching band. That’s why I love the symphony. I also love that [the L.A. Phil] works with children, and that’s also why I come here to support the orchestra.”

The gala

Following a standing ovation and a downpour of confetti at Disney Hall, guests adjourned to the Music Center plaza for a dinner of “reimagined” chicken pot pie created by Patina chef Joachim Splichal, as well as dancing and a chance to hear the three maestros speak onstage of their experiences with the orchestra.


The quotes

Recalling his first two weeks as a young conductor with the L.A. Phil, Mehta talked about how supportive the more experienced musicians had been. “I told them, ‘Look, I’m playing all this for the first time,’” he said. “’My door is open. Come and give me any advice you want.’” He then added, “There was a queue outside my door.”

Salonen praised the orchestra’s curiosity, openness, warmth and flexibility. He said, “After the first day, I had the feeling that this group of musicians was going to be a big part of my life, and that feeling hasn’t changed.”

A historic interview with Zubin Mehta, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel — three conductors spanning six decades of the L.A. Phil’s 100-year history.

Oct. 24, 2019

He then called to mind his leaving the orchestra but not before seeing Dudamel’s connection with the musicians. “I thought, ‘OK, this is the way to leave,’” he said, “because I knew everything is going to be great.”

For his part, Dudamel didn’t forget the moment. “I am here between two of my heroes — my conducting heroes — and it’s a privilege.”


The crowd

Judith and Thomas Beckmen, Diane and David Paul, Jay and Barbara Rasulo, David Bohnett, Mari Danihel, Jenny Miller Golf, Carol Colburn Grigor, Joan Hotchkis, Ann Ronus and Alyce de Roulet Williamson served as gala co-chairs. Guests included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, composer John Williams, architect Frank Gehry and actors Jaime King and Alex Meneses.

The numbers

The 650 concert and gala tickets sold for $3,000 to $15,000, with proceeds going to support music programs that reach 150,000 children and their families each year.