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Center takes hipper line with new season

ESCONDIDO — The upcoming 2015-16 season at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido might look and even sound a little hipper than its traditional programming of years past.

The San Diego Symphony makes its return to the Center in the new season, but this time with a twist — performing with Ben Folds. Also, Swedish indie folk singer José González will be performing with yMusic, a six-member instrumental ensemble.

It’s part of the Center’s approach to try and attract a younger audience, explained Executive Director Jerry Van Leeuwen.

The Center, which operates on 26-show season business model, is working under the guidelines of creating a mix of programming, Van Leeuwen explained, so that there would be at least one thing that everyone would say they’d want to see.

Van Leeuwen has left that to booking agent Bruce Labadie, now in his second year of solidifying the Center’s programming.

It’s about putting out a lot of offers and seeing what happens, Labadie said of getting the season’s line up together. Labadie, a Santa Cruz resident is also the artistic and festival director of the San Jose Jazz Fest.

“I think landing Ben Folds is good,” Labadie said. “If we can draw an audience to symphonic music and also draw a younger audience to see Ben Folds, it’s a reason for success.”

Labadie found that country does well at the Center, and so they were able to bring in Vince Gill with his side project The Time Jumpers.

Van Leeuwen said he was surprised that they were able to get the TEN Tenors, an Australian classical-crossover group.

“The good surprise for me was that Bruce achieved that breadth of different artists,” Van Leeuwen said.

While there might be competition in booking talent against the Belly Up in Solana Beach, Humphrey’s in San Diego, to some extent and the Poway Performing Arts Center, Van Leeuwen likened it to the craft brewery industry.

“We don’t compete,” he said. “The more you go, the more you enjoy it, and I hope that that’s the case for us.”

Van Leeuwen did tease that there are three or four artists, “big names,” he said, that will perform at the Center, though because of contractual constraints, they can’t announce them yet.

The first of those announcements will come in August, he added.

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