Arts, Culture, and Humanities

San Diego Symphony Orchestra Association

Find Your Music

aka San Diego Symphony Orchestra

San Diego, CA


The 100+ year old San Diego Symphony Orchestra presents symphonic music of the highest quality and facilitates the accessibility of an inspirational art form through innovative programming and a strong commitment to arts education.

Ruling Year


Principal Officer

Ms. Martha A. Gilmer

Main Address

1245 Seventh Ave

San Diego, CA 92101 USA


symphony, orchestra, music, concert, concerts





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Symphony Orchestras (A69)

IRS Filing Requirement

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Programs + Results

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Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Berton Family Young People's Concerts

Family Festivals

Linda and Shearn Platt Kinder Koncerts

Where we workNew!

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

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What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

The San Diego Symphony Orchestra is dedicated to presenting symphonic music at the highest level possible, as an accessible and inspirational art form through innovative programming and a strong commitment to arts education. The Symphony's vision is to be recognized as a world-class orchestra and as a major contributor to the quality of life in the San Diego region. Throughout the Symphony's history, thousands of people, young and old, have experienced the joy of live concerts at the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Music Center, Summer Pops specials on San Diego's beautiful waterfront, and music education programming at a variety of community venues throughout the region. The San Diego Symphony Orchestra is the oldest performing orchestra in the state and reflects the diversity of the region by offering a wide range of concert experiences. Every October through May, classical music lovers from all over the county attend our Jacobs Masterworks concert series. Named in honor of generous local philanthropists Joan and Irwin Jacobs, this series presents the best classical repertoire from the last three centuries in concert performance. The San Diego Symphony Orchestra's Summer Pops and Winter Pops Series (City Lights) feature modern hits and special musical guests throughout the year. Highlights of the Pops programs include the Holiday Pops and the military Home for the Holidays performances in December and the Star Spangled Pops performance in Summer. Throughout the year, San Diego schoolchildren regularly enjoy concerts made possible by support from individuals, foundations and corporations who share the Symphony's commitment to music education for all young people. These programs have become even more important, as budget cuts have eliminated most, if not all, arts education in San Diego schools. The San Diego Symphony Orchestra is committed to providing San Diego youth with an outlet of music education despite recent limitations. As the San Diego Symphony Orchestra concludes its 105th year and continues into a new century of performance and community engagement, we will pursue musical excellence, bring classical music into the community, and inspire future generations of audiences. We will do this by: 1) presenting the best classical music, performed by some of the world's finest musicians; 2) working hard to maintain the organization's fiscal strength and stability; 3) increasing public awareness of the Symphony and its community programming through ambitious marketing; 4) expanding youth education programs; 5) increasing the number of commissioning and recording projects.

In order to achieve these ambitious goals, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra will implement effective marketing and development strategies. On a broad scale, we hope to reach the larger community of San Diego by offering an extensive, yet balanced program of well-known Jacobs' Masterworks concerts and more contemporary pop works. We will work closely with concert promoters to attain the most promising up-and-coming talent. Past collaborative success with children's poet Jack Prelutsky and composer Lucas Richman resulted in the recording of an original commissioned children's work entitled "Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant." The San Diego Symphony Orchestra is excited to further bolster its creative legacy within the San Diego community, and will continue to commission original pieces for world-debut performance by emerging and veteran composers. The implementation of aggressive direct mail campaigns will continue county-wide and reach over two-thousand homes a year. On a smaller scale, we will reach out to the individual youth of San Diego by sponsoring schoolchildren to attend our Symphony Education and Outreach programming during the 2016-2017 concert season. Through concerts featuring a carefully selected repertoire of classical music, performed in collaboration with local arts organizations, students will increase their knowledge and appreciation of symphonic music, prominent composers, and the relationship between music and other art forms. Providing free Berton Family Young People's Concert tickets to low-income students will enhance the San Diego Symphony Orchestra's reputation as a leader in arts education and raise local awareness to the need for more comprehensive music education programming. Special Symphony fundraisers advertised for and held at local tourist destinations, like the San Diego Zoo's "Symphony on the Wild Side," the U.S.S. Midway's "Symphony for Freedom" and the Del Mar Racetrack's "Kentucky Derby - Run for the Roses," bring in first-time donors whose giving interests are cross-genre. Our Special Events team has experience targeting the correct markets for these events and plays a crucial part in the success of the fundraisers.

The San Diego Symphony Orchestra's endowment continues to expand thanks to local individual, corporate and foundation donors. Our proudest capital achievement was the recent acquisition of the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Music Center, the Symphony's performance venue since the mid-1980s, for perpetuity. The Centennial Campaign, established in honor of the Symphony's one-hundredth year of performance in San Diego, continues to grow the funds necessary for the Symphony to sustain the high quality of its musical presentations into the next century. Ticket purchases alone are not enough to maintain our innovative programming, commitment to arts education, and variety of music series - all of which are San Diego Symphony Orchestra hallmarks. And of course, none of this would be possible without the tireless efforts of the Symphony's staff and musicians. San Diego Symphony Orchestra musicians are some of the most talented in the country, and willingly give back to the community with their time and talents. Besides performing during the Jacobs Masterworks, Summer Pops and Winter Pops (City Lights) concert seasons, musicians serve in various capacities as local music teachers, lecturers and mentors. Their musical expertise and generosity is unparalleled. A dedicated team of 50 Symphony staff, spread across Development, Special Events, Marketing, Production and Operations Departments, are also committed to, and supportive of, the arts in San Diego County. The San Diego Symphony Orchestra's Board of Directors is an important resource that has been responsible for delegating appropriate funding to the campaigns and programs that need the most financial support. Their collective experience as long-standing community leaders, managing partners and concerned arts patrons is invaluable.

At a time when many symphony orchestras are struggling and/or facing bankruptcy, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra is fortunate to be experiencing strong support from the community, reflected in both ticket sales and contributed income.
The impact of our educational programming's success is measured by tracking total concert attendance and audience feedback from both students and teachers. This information is used in planning future programs. The most heartening pieces of feedback are the thank you letters and pictures we receive from many of the children who attend the Symphony's educational concerts.
The success of the Symphony can also be measured by its most recent outreach initiatives. An entertaining and literature-based work commissioned by the Symphony, "Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant," united children's poet laureate Jack Prelutsky's written word with musical accompaniment. The groundbreaking CD recording was released in September 2011.
Between October 2012 and July 2014, the Symphony implemented a new initiative entitled "Your Song, Your Story." "Your Song, Your Story" challenged the San Diego Symphony Orchestra to examine and redefine its relationship with the San Diego community. The project's final commissioned multimedia piece - featuring local residents' music, stories and dances - helped deepen audience engagement through the creation and performance of a new work that celebrated both the unique and shared cultural experiences of all San Diegans.

At a time when so many symphony orchestras are struggling financially, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra has just completed its most successful season ever. The Symphony attributes its success to its talented and adaptable musicians, world-renowned guest artists, a variety of wide-reaching community programs and a strong base of donors and subscribers. Another spectacular concert season has already been set in motion for 2016-2017. Guest artists will include Gil Shaham, Itzhak Perlman and Lang Lang.
At a time when little to no emphasis is placed on music programming for elementary students, we believe that the Symphony's efforts to preserve children's attendance numbers this upcoming 2016-2017 concert season will boost community awareness and demand for more organized educational endeavors. The Symphony is currently submitting grant requests to local corporations and family foundations, requesting funds to sponsor deserving under-represented San Diego schoolchildren's tickets to Symphony Education and Outreach programming.
A recent project initiated by the Education & Outreach department was the commissioning of musical work "Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant," based on the poetry of the nation's first Children's Poet Laureate, Jack Prelutsky. Composed by Lucas Richman, "Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant" consists of 17 short musical pieces that represent each poem in Mr. Prelutsky's poetry collection of the same name.
To facilitate donation activity, a new and more user-friendly Symphony website was created to simplify the giving process and more clearly explain donor benefits. An e-mail newsletter that showcases new and exciting ways to both experience and contribute to Symphony efforts is currently sent to all requesting concert subscribers. Convenient links to the Symphony webpage are always included in these e-newsletters for use by potential donors.
As the San Diego Symphony Orchestra begins another exciting concert season, we can only hope that the generated momentum of enthusiasm and community generosity will continue into the next one hundred years.

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San Diego Symphony Orchestra Association

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Need more info?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2016, 2015 and 2014
A Pro report is also available for this organization for $125.
Click here to see what's included.

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?