Liebowitz discusses ‘Concert in the Park’

by David Dixon

The annual event at Spreckels Organ Pavillion features performances from SDSU’s School of Music and Dance. Courtesy of Marian Liebowitz
The annual event at Spreckels Organ Pavillion features performances from SDSU’s School of Music and Dance. Courtesy of Marian Liebowitz

On Saturday, Cinco de Mayo, a lively music recital called “Concert in the Park” will be performed at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion at Balboa Park. Marian Liebowitz, the event manager, spoke about the history of this annual show and answered some questions about her involvement with this holiday treat.

The Daily Aztec: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of “Concert in the Park”?
Marian Liebowitz: The San Diego Downtown Kiwanis have been supporting SDSU’s School of Music and Dance for well over 25 years. I didn’t get involved with it until about nine or 10 years ago. At that time, we were still holding the concert indoors.
It was around 2006 when we decided that the concert would be more accessible to the community at large if we held it outdoors. Our goal was to make it a free concert and gift to the community from the downtown Kiwanis that would feature SDSU School of Music and Dance student performers.

DA: What is your role as event manager?
ML: My role is to be a liaison between SDSU’s School of Music and Dance and the Kiwanis. I am a member of the San Diego Downtown Kiwanis and I’m a faculty member at SDSU. I oversee the fundraising, the sale of sponsorships, the audience development and making sure the musical program is put together and consistent with the theme of the program.
For example, this year we are holding the concert on Cinco de Mayo, so we wanted to have Latin American music. Whereas in the past, when it’s been on Mother’s Day, there have been other themes. I also make sure the V.I.P. Reception is organized and that our donors and sponsors are properly recognized for their contributions.

DA: What are some of the acts that you are looking forward to at “Concert in the Park?”
ML: This year, not only do we have our usual one hour program, but we’re featuring two of the finest ensembles in “Concert in the Park.” The SDSU Jazz Ensemble, which is a nationally award-winning ensemble, is one of them; and we’re also featuring our chamber choir. There will be times when those two ensembles will be performing together. I think it’s going to be really fun and the repertoire they picked is appropriate for Cinco de Mayo.
In addition, this year we have a children’s program that will be before  “Concert in the Park,” so families and small children can come and do activities with the kids. Also, I’m looking forward to the V.I.P. Reception in the Mingei Museum. There are chamber groups performing at that. It’s just one thing after another. A chain of wonderful music and art.

DA: What has been your favorite “Concert in the Park” to date? Why?
ML: Each “Concert in the Park” is fabulous and fun for different reasons. I would have to say the event, two years ago, was a highlight. We had the full concert choir perform and it wasn’t raining. We’re always dependent on the weather. Usually in May in San Diego, you don’t have to worry about rain. Last year we did have rain and we were constantly waiting for the heavens to stop opening up. In fact, some people left early, because they were getting rained on.
The one three years ago was also great. We actually raised the most money ever that year. It was about $25,000. As an event planner, you’re always excited when you raise the highest amount of money. However, there’s also more to it than that. There’s the fun. There’s the musical experience. There’s a lot of moving factors and, each year, there’s been something special for a different reason.

DA: “Concert in the Park” was on Mother’s Day last year, but on Cinco de Mayo this year. Is it just a coincidence or do you like to present it on a holiday?
ML: I like to present it on a holiday, because I feel that there’s greater leverage for media attention on a holiday. There’s greater musical significance and maybe more people tend to come out on a holiday, because they’re looking for something free and fun to do. Since our goal is to give to the community, why not give them a gift on a day that they’re looking for something to do? We always encourage family attendance and both Mother’s Day and Cinco de Mayo are about families.

DA: “Concert in the Park” is only an hour long. Why so short?
ML: When you plan an hour, and there are lots of people that have to talk or get recognized, it gets longer than an hour. We say it’s an hour, and hope for the best, but the reality is that it is usually around 90 minutes. This year, we’re trying not to cut down the amount of music so much, but cut down the amount of talking.

DA: What do you see for the future of “Concert in the Park?”
ML: I like this idea of attaching it to Cinco de Mayo. Of course, Cinco de Mayo will still be on a weekend next year. It would make sense to do it again on Cinco de Mayo. We aren’t doing it on Mother’s Day this year, because it falls during finals week. I anticipate continuing to grow the event and have more and more San Diegans attending.
I’m glad that we are actually reaching out to the Spanish community and trying to get a lot of them out to “Concert in the Park;” and I’m hoping that population will continue to attend it in the years to come. I like that we’ve got two consulates sponsoring the event. We’ve got the sponsorship of the Mexican Consulate and we’ve got a strong representation of the U.S. Consulate of Tijuana. I would like to continue to see that cross-border cooperation and support of the event.

DA: Are there are any other events that you are managing soon?
ML: I manage several events under Heartpower Performances, which is the project that takes music to homeless veterans in San Diego … There’s quite a bit that I do, but nothing quite so large as “Concert in the Park.”

Information for “Concert in the Park” can be found at

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