Yo-Yo-Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, and Executive Director Celesta Billeci.

Grace Kathryn Photography

Yo-Yo-Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, and Executive Director Celesta Billeci.

Dining with Yo-Yo Ma

Arts & Lectures Hosts Benefit with Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile

On May 2, about 100 spellbound guests spent a magical evening at the Granada Theatre with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer, and mandolinist Chris Thile. The evening commenced with a cocktail reception in the Founders Room, followed by a exquisite concert in the theatre featuring a mostly Bach program, and then an intimate dinner party back in the Founders Room with these legendary musicians. Funds raised from the $1,000 per person ticket sales will go to UCSB Arts & Lectures extensive education outreach programs.

During the concert, Yo-Yo Ma shared how the trio loves playing Bach because it “takes us into a very special place … close to paradise” and that they are trying to find beauty and truth and “this music takes us there.” At the dinner party afterwards, the guests all still seemed swept up in this paradisiacal place. The Founders Room appeared even more elegant and luxurious than usual, with round tables draped in burgundy-velvet, embroidered table linens and sporting colorful floral arrangements illuminated with mini-LED lights. Yo-Yo Ma greeted many guests with a hug and a smile and seemed to have a story to share with each of them.

Over dinner, the delightful and talented sound engineer David Sinko, who travels with the trio, nicely summed up his situation for me, “I work for three of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the best music in the world, for some of the most discriminating audiences in the world, and that’s a challenge — and one that I really enjoy.” After dinner, Yo-Yo Ma commented on how crucial the role of Arts & Lectures is in our community. According to Ma, “Arts & Lectures serves the purpose of stimulating wonder, curiosity, and imagination that leads to a passionate commitment and a lifelong pursuit of something that is bigger than yourself.” He then urged the guests, with a wide smile, to generously fund this noble organization.

Executive Director Celesta Billeci shared how Arts & Lectures mantra is “Arts for all” and that education outreach is a critical part of its mission. Each year, it reaches more than 30,000 learners of all ages. Billeci provided a few examples: a talk about life in space by astronaut Scott Kelly to 4th-6th graders at the Granada Theatre; a master class for UCSB students by Yo-Yo Ma; a performance by La Santa Cecilia at Los Prietos Boys Camp (who, as promised, gave a shout-out to the boys in their Grammy speech); a forum with the US Poet Laureate for high school students to share their poems with him; and a Q&A session with National Book Award Winner Colson Whitehead for writers. Moreover, free concerts are provided for migrant farmworkers in the North County and free and subsidized tickets to many performances are extended to low-income families.

Ticket sales cover only about 30 percent of Arts & Lectures’ budget, making donations critical to fund these invaluable outreach programs.

For more info about Arts & Lectures, go to

Send invites to Gail at

By Gail Arnold

Event Committee Members Heather Sturgess and Meg Burnham.

By Gail Arnold

Morrie and Irma Jurkowitz with Annette Caleel and her son, Thomas Caleel.

By Gail Arnold

Robert and Christine Emmons, Event Committee Member Anne Towbes, Dilling Yang and UCSB Chancellor Dr. Henry Yang.

By Gail Arnold

Lisa Lloyd, Nina Phillips, Monica Nelsen, and Mary Beth Riordan.

By Gail Arnold

Linda Bedell, Russell Steiner, and Arts & Lectures Associate Director Roman Baratiak.

By Gail Arnold

Guests enjoy the dinner.

Grace Kathryn Photography

Yo-Yo-Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, and Executive Director Celesta Billeci.

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