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The Music Center
Photograph: pixculture/Flickr

A love letter to the Music Center

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

Dear Dorothy, Mark and Mr. Ahmanson,

I know your neighborhood's gotten a lot of attention lately, what with the Broad opening and all, but I wanted to shine the spotlight on you, Music Center. A decade ago, all eyes were on your Downtown Los Angeles hilltop when you welcomed WaltRoy and Edna into your family. I could gush endlessly about that Gehry-designed gift, but instead I want to rewind things back to 1964 when it was all about you, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

You're looking pretty good for being over 50. From the chandeliers suspended in your palatial lobby to the earthy, amber glow of your auditorium, you’re bathed in class—I’m talking some serious late-series Mad Men aesthetics. It’s no surprise that you hosted the Academy Awards 25 times, up until the opening of the Dolby Theatre. Though the days of rubbing shoulders with Hollywood's elite have passed, you still surround yourself with exceptional talent, whether you’re welcoming Plácido Domingo or Sufjan Stevens to your stage.

Though I could go on about your glassy exterior and those tapered white columns, I shouldn't ignore your two neighbors. Mark and Mr. Ahmanson, you round out the plaza with a dreamy duo of performance spaces. The drum-shaped Mark Taper Forum perches above a moat on one side and greets the Ahmanson Theatre on the other, which itself hugs the entire compound in stately columns.

Your plaza, the work of master planner Welton Becket, is criminally underrated. When I stand in front of Jacques Lipchitz’s watery "Peace on Earth" sculpture, I look at you and can't help but think that this is one of the finest views in the entire city: flanked by your monumental Music Center spaces, backed by the midcentury DWP Building and looking out over Grand Park and City Hall. Your pre-concert cocktail hours are always a welcome invitation to linger in the plaza, as if I needed an excuse. It’s such a stunning space, which is why I’m so frustrated that you’re so coy about showing it off.

That’s my biggest issue in our relationship. You always greet me on the Grand Avenue sidewalk with your unsightly side—the parking garage entrances and exits—while your most alluring assets sit smugly above the street. It’s like you’re trying to push me away. While we're at it, those ticket prices certainly don’t help (the 30/30/30 club is a nice start).

But I’m willing to work past those problems. Some people probably still resent you for supplanting Bunker Hill’s dilapidated Victorian mansions, but I’m not here to judge. If anything, I admire the way you’ve tried to fold the entire fabric of the city into your embrace. You cater to kids at the W.M. Keck Children’s Amphitheater, night owls during Sleepless, self-identified opera luddites during pre-performance talks and nearly everyone else in the city during the LA County Holiday Celebration.

Just remember: No matter how many newer, shinier performance spaces arrive in LA, you'll always be this city's cultural heart. You already have mine.

Unabashedly yours,


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