Eli and Edythe Broad commemorate the opening of their new downtown museum with a two-day celebration
by Linda A. Rapka
In September, Los Angeles welcomed the new Broad Museum with an extravagant gala event befitting the long-awaited $140 million project of arts philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad.
The two-day long pre-opening celebration shut down Grand Avenue to nearly 2,000 private of the Broads. A special structure was erected across the street from the museum specifically for the party, its million-dollar price tag proving no deterrent for it being torn down the next day. Before previewing the museum’s collection, guests enjoyed a private dinner with live music by the 48-piece Angel City Pops Orchestra plus conductor – a scale not typical for your average dinner party.
Arranged through Bourgeois Entertainment, live music producer Lynne Gordon Entertainment contacted trumpet player and music contractor Chris Tedesco back in June to see if he could put together an orchestra to perform a mix of classical, Broadway and film music pops. Despite the advance notice, the contract signoff happened just three weeks before the event. This didn’t leave much wiggle room for contracting the musicians – or much time for sleep for the contractor.
“I slept about four hours a night those two weeks leading up to the event,” Tedesco said. “There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen. It was very consuming, I really couldn’t do anything else.”
With three weeks to go and the clock ticking, Tedesco started researching all the orchestra schedules in town to check availability of the musicians. His choice for conductor came immediately: longtime colleague, friend and fellow University of Miami alum André Raphel of the Wheeling West Virginia Symphony, known for its pops programming. “André was the best guy to come in and conduct because he does this every week,” Tedesco said. “There are conductors in L.A. but he immediately popped into my head.”
Another addition from the U of Miami “alum club” was Paul Piazza, who worked as Tedesco’s library assistant – no small task for a show with an ever-changing musical program. “As the show got closer, the producers kept changing the music,” Tedesco said. “With a week to go, we buy another $1,000 worth of music and I send André the scores. He says, ‘It’s OK, I can learn these in a week. Let’s roll with it.’ I knew he was perfect for the job, because he loves to conduct pops.”
The two-hour program began with 30 minutes of classical music, with the orchestra appearing as silhouettes behind a semi-opaque curtain. As the music transitioned to a pops blend of jazz, Broadway and film music, the curtain dramatically rose to expose the musicians on a riser suspended above the dining room, to the surprise and delight of the audience.
“At first the audience wasn’t sure if it was a live orchestra or not because of the screen – was it a projection or real?” Tedesco said. “They were clapping after each song like it was a concert. It was incredible. There were lots of smiling faces in the orchestra for sure.”
On the second night, a familiar face in the audience: former University of Miami president Donna Shalala. When dinner ended the orchestra exited the stage to make way for Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders, who closed out the musical portion of the evening with her distinct rock anthems. The U of M alums made their way to the floor to say hello to Shalala, and casually spotted the name card on the seat next to hers: Mr. Bill Clinton.
Shalala served as the Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton after retiring from U of Miami, and currently is president of the Clinton Foundation. When the three introduced themselves as members of the orchestra, she insisted that they stay to meet Clinton. “He’s been raving about you for two hours, all during dinner,” she told Tedesco, sharing he was most impressed when the orchestra played Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5.”
“Bill – this is your orchestra,” Shalala said as she introduced them to the former POTUS. “Oh my god! Did I hear you guys play ‘Take 5’? Let me tell you the story of meeting Dave in 1961 when he came to my hometown,” Clinton gushed – “and we all start vocalizing the bridge jazz line together,” Tedesco laughed. “We shared five minutes of talking music. He told us all to make sure to stay in touch, and told us he couldn’t get how great of a dinner it was listening to us. He even asked for a picture. It was unreal.”
The event garnered tons of media coverage and positive words from all involved, and served as quite a fitting welcome for downtown L.A.’s newest museum.
The Broads have long been supporters of the arts and music in Los Angeles, donating to the LA Philharmonic, LA Opera, and countless other institutions and organizations. Located next door to the Music Center and Disney Hall, the Broad Museum features 50,000 square feet of galleries filled with the Broads’ art collection and storage space for everything that’s not on view. It houses nearly 2,000 pieces of contemporary art by more than 200 artists, including works by Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, and Roy Liechtenstein. To learn more and reserve tickets to view the collection, visit thebroad.org.
Photos: Linda A. Rapka & Chris Tedesco
Angel City Pops Orchestra
Broad Museum Pre-Opening Gala – Sept. 17-18, 2015
Maestro André Raphel
Orchestra Contractor/Trumpet Soloist
Peter Kent, concertmaster
Cathy Del Russo