The event was first held in 2008, with a total of three held through 2009. Following a three-year hiatus, event founder and host Jefferson Jay, along with Athenaeum executive director Erika Torri, decided to start up the series again “based on interest from (museum) members,” Jay said.
Each night of the event features three singer-songwriters playing a brief set and taking part in a question-and-answer session about their lives and music. Acoustic Evenings mixes both established names and up-and-coming talent. Friday, Oct. 5 is topped by Jack Tempchin — best known as songwriter of hits for the likes of the Eagles and Johnny Rivers — plus Hugh Gaskins and Jeffrey Joe Morin. Oct. 19 will see Cory Wilkins, Chris Zach, while Nov. 2 will feature Nancy Truesdail, Will Edwards and Regina Leonard. (Full disclosure: this reporter will be included in the Oct. 19 lineup.)
Jay said he was looking for more than just a voice and guitar when he booked the series.
“We were wanting to portray the many faces of inspiration in our return series,” he said. “San Diego is an inspiring place to live and our performers channel their inspiration in a way that is contagious. Many of them have overcome unthinkable adversity. I felt that our artists could share their stories and truly impact or make deep personal connections with those attending. Everybody on the list is exceptional on and off the stage.”
While Jay said he feels regular concerts have become a bit clichéd, he hopes this format of music and discussion might appeal to a broader audience.
“There are a lot of amazing things to do in San Diego,” Jay said. “It is understandable that people might not be as into checking out shows and supporting artists as they are in other places. These shows will provide a unique window into the exceptional nature of some of our acoustic musicians. I hope it leaves an impression that will stick with people for some time. I want these programs to last both a night and a lifetime.”
Jay notes that though everyone in this series is a San Diegan, future shows won’t be limited by the county line. That said, this is a series that could run indefinitely on local talent.
“There are tons of talented people in San Diego, more than enough to support this series,” he said.
Guitarist Cory Wilkins said he is particularly happy to have a chance to play his songs in a listening environment, rather than a noisy nightclub or coffeehouse.
“It’s always an honor to perform in an environment that focuses on songwriting,” Wilkins said. “When you play at clubs, with a full rockin’ band, little is thought of the songs you’re actually playing. People like them or they don’t, but rarely are we asked what inspired a certain song or anything, so doing something that really focuses on the songs and the process is a lot of fun.”
Jay said he is thrilled to expose the work of some of San Diego’s finest tunesmiths, as well as contribute to a historic venues history.
“I feel a strong bond with the Athenaeum. I wrote my master’s thesis in history from San Diego State University on the history of this hallowed institution, so I feel very personally connected,” he said. “Our earlier series only served to strengthen that bond. I am honored, but even more so, I am proud to contribute to and help carry on their legacy which stretches back over a hundred years.”
Acoustic Evenings: Friday Oct. 5, Oct. 19, Nov. 2 at The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St. 7:30 p.m. All ages. $12 members / $17 non-members. www.ljathenaeum.org.