ArtPower to celebrate 20th anniversary at UC San Diego with new twists and most live events in its history

Amal, a 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee,  Sept. 24, 2022, Central Park, NY
Little Amal, a 12-foot puppet representing a 10-year-old refugee from Syria, will make its ArtPower debut this season. It is shown here at the 2022 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park in New York.
(Evan Agostini / Evan Agostini/invision/ap)

The lineup ranges from Rock Hall of Famer George Clinton, drum great Antonio Sanchez and vocal group Manhattan Transfer to electronic music maverick Suzanne Cianni and tributes to Queen and Cher


After two decades of presenting a dizzyingly diverse array of music, dance, theater, film and spoken-word artists from across the nation and around the world, UC San Diego’s ArtPower might not be expected to have any new tricks up its sleeve.

To the contrary, ArtPower’s upcoming 20th season will mark a number of firsts. They include:

• A record 43 live events, at least 22 of which will be held in the Epstein Family Amphitheater. The $70 million venue, which has a capacity of 2,300, will celebrate its first anniversary with an Oct. 21 performance by Rock & Roll Hall of Famers George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic.

• A $100,000 presenting sponsorship, the first in ArtPower’s history, to help underwrite events at the new amphitheater. The sponsorship is being provided by Aya Healthcare, whose CEO — Alan Braynin — is a 1995 UCSD graduate.

• About 300 tickets for each ArtPower event at the amphitheater will be provided free to students. In addition, a number of free tickets will be provided for all ArtPower events this season in each of its other venues.

• “Drag Me to the Amphitheater,” the first ticketed drag show in ArtPower history, will be held Oct. 28 at the amphitheater, which opened last fall with a concert by the San Diego Symphony and percussion master (and UCSD music professor) Steven Schick.

He performs on nearly 200 percussion instruments on his dazzling new double-album

May 15, 2022

• “Birdman Live,” ArtPower’s first film screening with live music. It will be performed by Mexican-born drum great Antonio Sanchez, who composed and performed all the percussion pieces for the 2014 film, which won four Oscars the following year.

Mexican-born jazz drum great Antonio Sanchez
Mexican-born jazz drum great Antonio Sanchez will perform at Epstein Family Amphitheater as part of the 2023/2024 ArtPower season.
(Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)

• “Women in Synth,” a weekend-long November showcase for electronic music mavericks Suzanne Cianni and Laurel Halo.

• “The Art of Science Live! A Cosmology Explorer’s Guide,” the first live all-science event to be held under the auspices of ArtPower. It will be presented by astrophysicist Brian Keating, the UCSD Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of Physics.

• “Little Amal,” ArtPower’s first giant puppet event, which will be held at various locations near the U.S. Mexico border, including CASA Community Station in San Ysidro. Little Amal is a 12-foot puppet representing a 10-year-old refugee from Syria.

San Diego marks the end of the puppet troupe’s 6,000-mile, 35-city walking tour of the U.S. to bring attention to the plight of the displaced

July 26, 2023

• “The Greatest Love of All,” a Feb. 24 salute to Whitney Houston, will be the first pop-music tribute show in ArtPower’s history. It will be followed by tributes to Cher, Queen and country-music legends June Carter and Johnny Cash.

The San Diego Symphony performs at UCSD’s new Epstein Family Amphitheater.
The San Diego Symphony performs at UCSD’s new Epstein Family Amphitheater. The 2,300-capacity venue will host more than half of the 43 events in ArtPower’s 2023/2024 season.
(Erik Jepsen / UC San Diego / Board of Regents of the University of California)

Three key priorities

“Our priorities are threefold,” said Colleen Kollar Smith, who in July 2022 was named executive director of UCSD’s newly created Campus Performance and Events Office.

“We have three different groups we want to make sure we are serving at all times — our students, our faculty and staff, and the San Diego community at large. Our job is to balance those things and create bridges between the different communities. So, in this upcoming season, we’re doing our best to connect and build on those.”

Those connections will be showcased in several events during the 2023-24 ArtPower season.

One of the performers, 24-year-old singer-songwriter Em Beihold, is a 2020 UCSD communications major graduate. She will headline an Oct. 20 concert at the amphitheater.

Another upcoming ArtPower performer, Tony Award-winning actor Christian Hoff, starred in the productions of “Tommy” and “Jersey Boys” at La Jolla Playhouse, located on the university’s La Jolla campus. He returns for a Dec. 16 amphitheater holiday show by The Midtown Men, a “Jersey Boys”-inspired vocal quartet led by Hoff.

Then there’s the April 11 amphitheater performance by the Los Angeles-based Contra-Tiempo Advocacy Dance Theater. Its founding director, noted choreographer Ana Maria Alvarez, is an associate professor of theater at UCSD.

The season-concluding May 10 concert at Conrad Prebys Concert Hall by Canada’s St. Lawrence String Quartet and pianist Steven Banks will feature music by award-winning composer Lei Liang, a veteran UCSD professor.

“A number of our faculty members are celebrated artists we want to engage with in ArtPower,” Smith said.

“The St. Lawrence String Quartet will do a residency with Lei Liang’s composition class, and the quartet’s performance will feature a student composition. These are examples of how we can connect with students and faculty in unique ways. And that’s really the core of what ArtPower is and always will be.”

Composer Lei Liang Sept. 28, 2022 in San Diego, CA.
Acclaimed composer Lei Liang will collaborate with the St. Lawrence String Quartet as part of the upcoming ArtPower season.
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The budget for the upcoming ArtPower season is a record $2 million, up from $1.3 million last season. This will be the first iteration in nearly a decade to be held without Jordan Peimer, ArtPower’s executive director from 2014 until earlier this year.

Peimer’s position appears to have been subsumed by UCSD’s Campus Performances and Events Office, which today is announcing two new staff members. They are associate director of artistic planning and outreach Elizabeth Bradshaw, who was brought on in July, and assistant director of artistic outreach and planning Albert Agbayani, who has booked The Loft at UCSD since 2017 and also a number of this summer’s concerts at the amphitheater.

Peimer played a key role in expanding ArtPower’s artistic range over the past decade and at least half of the programming in the upcoming season seems consistent with the previous seasons he oversaw.

Peimer and Smith each declined to comment on his departure, or what may have prompted it.

Asked how many events in the new season were booked by Peimer, Agbayani replied: “That’s an interesting question.”

Smith offered a similar response, saying: “It’s a tricky question.” She then added: “Obviously we’ve had some transitions. So, this season has been built by a number of curators. It’s a collaborative model.”

The new season is designed, at least in part, to draw new attendees by taking advantage of an unlikely combination: tribute acts — which perform the music of deceased or no longer active pop-music legends — and the direct proximity of the new amphitheater to a San Diego Trolley stop.

“Parking on campus can be a challenge,” said Agbayani, who commutes to UCSD on the trolley. “And the tribute acts are a nice way to draw people, fill the amphitheater, and get them used to the idea of coming on campus.”

Smith agreed.

“We really are hopeful,” she said, “that the trolley will be our connection to a lot of first-time UCSD visitors. Our hope is they will come to a show, have a meal on campus, visit the (outdoor art) Stuart Collection and experience what has been here for quite some time.”

ArtPower 2023-24 season

Tickets: Series subscriptions go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. Single tickets go on sale Sept. 5


Sept. 28: Madison McFerrin, The Loft (8 p.m.; $30–$40)

Oct. 13: Australian Haydn Ensemble, Conrad Prebys Concert Hall (7:30 p.m.; $50–$65)

Oct. 18: Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, The Loft (8 p.m.; $30–$40)

Oct. 19: “The Art of Science Live! A Cosmology Explorer’s Guide,” with Professor Brian Keating, Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $25)

Em Beihold performs at Wango Tango 2022, June 4, 2022,
Singer Em Beihold, a 2020 UCSD graduate, will perform at her alma mater as part of the upcoming ArtPower season.
(Richard Shotwell / Richard Shotwell/invision/ap)

Oct. 20: Em Beihold, Epstein Family Amphitheater (8 p.m.; $15–$30)

Oct. 20: A Conversation with Benjamin Alire Sáenz, UC San Diego (7:30 p.m.; ticket prices tba)

Oct. 21: George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic/Epstein Family Amphitheater First Birthday Party, Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $40-$100)

Oct. 25: serpentwithfeet: Heart of Brick, Epstein Family Amphitheater (8 p.m.; $20–$45)

Oct. 28: Drag Me to the Amphitheater (Headliners TBA), Epstein Family Amphitheater (8 p.m.; $25–$45)

Nov. 1 - Nov. 4: Dia de los Muertos Community Ofrenda, Epstein Family Amphitheater (daily, free)

Nov. 3: Tesla Quartet, with pianist David Kaplan, TSRI Auditorium (7:30 p.m.; $50–$65)

Nov. 5: Little Amal (The Walk), various locations at the U.S./Mexico border, including CASA Community Station (time TBA; free)

Nov. 9: Carlos Simon’s Requiem for the Enslaved, Hub New Music, Price Center East Ballroom (7:30 p.m.; $40)

Nov. 10: Son Rompe Pera, Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $30)

Nov. 14: Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness, Price Center East Ballroom (7:30 p.m.; $30)

Nov. 17-18: “Women in Synth,” featuring Suzanne Cianni and Laurel Halo, Epstein Family Amphitheater, The Loft and other locations (times tba; $25-$35)

Aja Monet will perform Nov. 30 at The Loft as part of the upcoming ArtPower season.
(Amy Harris / Amy Harris/invision/ap)

Nov. 30: Aja Monet, The Loft (8 p.m.; $30–$40)

Dec. 9: The Klezmatics, Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $20–$45)

Dec. 12: “Nochebuena: A Christmas Spectacular,” Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $20–$95)

Dec. 14: Manhattan Transfer’s 50th Anniversary Tour and Penultimate Performance, with Sherrie Marcie & The Diva Jazz Orchestra, Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $20–$125)

Dec. 16: The Midtown Men: “Holiday Hits,” Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $20–$125)

Jan. 21: Jake Blount, The Loft (8 p.m.; $30–$40)

Feb. 6: Delfeayo Marsalis Mardi Gras Jazz, Price Center East Ballroom (7:30 p.m.; $40)

Feb. 9: Isidore String Quartet, Conrad Prebys Concert Hall (7:30 p.m.; $50–$65)

Marisol "La Marisoul" Hernandez, lead singer in Grammy Award-winning band La Santa Cecilia
Marisol “La Marisoul” Hernandez, the lead singer in the Grammy Award-winning band La Santa Cecilia, will perform with her solo project, The Love Notes Orchestra, as part of the upcoming ArtPower season.
(Richard Shotwell / Richard Shotwell/invision/ap)

Feb. 15: La Marisoul and The Love Notes Orchestra, location tba (8 p.m.; $25-$45)

Feb. 24: Harlem Gospel Travelers, The Loft (8 p.m.; $30–$40)

Feb. 24: “The Greatest Love of All” — Whitney Houston Tribute, Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $20–$65)

March 21: Alfredo Rodríguez, The Loft (8 p.m.; $30–$40)

March 22: Red Baraat, Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $30)

March 25: “Because You’re Mine: The Music of June Carter and Johnny Cash,” starring Caitie Grady and Charles Evan, Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $20–$50)

March 29: Sonia De Los Santos: “Música,” New Children’s Museum (6:30 p.m.; $10-$25)

March 30: The Little Mermen, Epstein Family Amphitheater (6:30 p.m.; $10–$20)

April 4: Princess Lockerooo’s “The Fabulous Waack Dancers Big Show,” (location, time and ticket prices tba)

April 5: Boarte Trio, Conrad Prebys Concert Hall (7:30 p.m.; $50–$65)

April 11: Contra-Tiempo Advocacy Dance Theater: Azúcar, Epstein Family Amphitheater (8 p.m.; $20–$45)

April 18: “Birdman Live,” film screening with drummer Antonio Sanchez, Epstein Family Amphitheater (8 p.m.; $25)

April 19: Super Diamond, (7:30 p.m.; $20-$50)

April 20: “Animaniacs Live,” Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $20–$50)

April 26: “The Beat Goes On,” starring Lisa McClowry as Cher, Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $20–$50)

April 27: QueenNation, Epstein Family Amphitheater (7:30 p.m.; $20-$65)

May 6: JACK Quartet + Art of Elan, The Loft (8 p.m., ticket prices tba)

May 9: An Evening with David Sedaris, Balboa Theatre (8 p.m.; $55-$70)

May 10: St. Lawrence String Quartet, with pianist Steven Banks, Conrad Prebys Concert Hall (7:30 p.m.; $50–$65)