Last fall, I went to the opening night of the San Diego Symphony’s centennial season. A woman I met in the seat next to me that night has been going to the symphony for decades, she told me, through good years and bad. She assured me the symphony is worlds better now than it used to be. I asked her, What’s been the most noticeable change?

Definitely the horns, she said. Nothing worse than bad horns. (No offense intended to any previous local symphony horn players that read Behind the Scene.)

(Also, no pressure, Darby Hinshaw, who’ll join the horn section this season.)

Huge gifts like the ones I wrote about in my story last night are like a gauntlet being thrown down: The community knows you’ve received a giant boost and expects something from you. In the case of the San Diego Symphony, it wasn’t too long before Joan and Irwin Jacobs pledged $120 million that the organization was a near-bankrupt orchestra with a bunch of empty seats.

The symphony’s chief executive, Ward Gill, told me now the symphony (whose budget is close to $20 million yearly) wants to tour in a few years, perhaps to Carnegie Hall or to Asia. He said they want to be ubiquitous members of the community, playing for military families and for pops concerts and for the opera and for their own masterpiece seasons. They’ve hired more than 40 musicians since Gill came in 2003.

How do you think they’re doing? What changes have you seen (and heard) that have impressed you? What, if anything, has been disappointing? Leave a comment below or on Facebook.

I’m Kelly Bennett, the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

And follow Behind the Scene on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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