Experience live music in one of San Diego’s most beautiful historical landmarks. Witness the stunning architecture of this intimate Japanese garden while supporting music education in San Diego. Our aim is to combine our city's finest music with the breathtaking setting of the Japan Friendship Garden and to share this with our guests.

*All profits from the Japanese Friendship Garden Concert Series will go to the Mission Bay High School music program to help the Preservationists travel to Japan in April.  This series is organized and produced by the music students of MBHS.

All concerts held at the Inamori Pavilion, Japanese Friendship Garden (2215 Pan American Rd E, San Diego, CA 92101) in Balboa Park.

7:00PM Performance / Doors open at 6:30PM / all ages welcome

2/14 - Steph Johnson

“Steph Johnson is that rare panoramic talent that catches your attend upon the first note. Her voice is soulful and unique, rich with texture as is her songwriting. She has released 4 CDs, her most recent recording “Music is Art” was produced by two time Grammy award winning producer Kamau Kenyatta (Gregory Porter/Best Jazz Vocal 2014 + 2016). Featuring 10 of her original compositions with stellar musical support from trumpeter Curtis Taylor (James Carter, Billy Childs), guitarist Gregory “Gmo” Moore (Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Earth Wind and Fire), Kamau Kenyatta (Hubert Laws, Donal Byrd), bassist Rob Thorsen, Drummer Fernando Gomez and organist Andrej Pivec. The CD has propelled her career to new heights and combines her jazz prowess with her soulful R&B roots. “…her core strength is as a communicator with rhythmic depth and smoky, pliant power…Johnson’s sweet yearning vocal really soars on Music is Art…Highly recommended.” Robert Bush/NBC”

2/28 - Robert dove

Born in Columbus, Ohio, San Diego-based Saxophonist Robert Dove is “As a soloist, he’s in a word, formidable.” Robert Bush proclaims, a freelance jazz writer of the San Diego Reader, NBC San Diego, and All About Jazz. He has performed and recorded alongside John Ellis, Marcus Roberts, Lee Konitz, Wessel “Warmdaddy” Anderson, Jason Marsalis, Donny McCaslin, Peter Bernstein, Jim Rupp, Bobby Floyd, Byron Stripling, Gene Walker, and other prominent musicians. He is well versed in all aspects of jazz, and uses this facility to arrange, compose, perform, and educate with multiple groups throughout Southern California. Robert currently leads his own group, the Robert Dove Quartet, featuring his debut album “Paradigm Shift” featuring Gilbert Castellanos and Marshall Hawkins, which highlights the influences of jazz royalty, but with a more modern approach.   

3/14 - Gilbert castellanos

Gilbert Castellanos is the leading top-call jazz musician, band leader, composer, producer, and educator on the local and international circuit.

Recognized as a new American master by Downbeat magazine, Mr. Castellanos is also a strong advocate of promoting and educating various communities about Jazz: “America’s classical music,” as he calls it. Mr. Castellanos takes pride in being a member of the prestigious Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, working with one of his mentors, the great John Clayton. He has recorded and performed with a multitude of world-renowned musicians from Dizzy Gillespie to Michael Bublé to Willie Nelson (to name a few), and even doing a stint on American Idol for millions of listeners. He was a 2012 San Diego Music Awards “Artist of the Year” honoree.

Mr. Castellanos has a passion for jazz education, and in 2013 he started The Young Lions series, a program (currently presented weekly at Balboa Park's Panama 66 restaurant) that showcases young blooming jazz artists (ages 10-18) with whom he works closely as instructor and mentor. Mr. Castellanos recently founded The Young Lions Jazz Conservatory (YLJC) and is its artistic director. He also gives jazz masterclasses and performances all over the world.

3/28 - Rob thorsen

Jazz bassist Rob Thorsen maintains a diverse and busy schedule in Southern California as a performer, educator, clinician and composer. He has found his true voice in the upright bass and performs regularly in San Diego with artists including the Mike Wofford/ Holly Hofmann Quartet, Charles McPherson, Steph Johnson, Gilbert Castellanos, Mundell Lowe and a host of others. He has released four recordings as a leader, the most recent “Lasting Impression” featured an array of jazz talents including pianist Geoffrey Keezer, Josh Nelson, and saxophonist Ben Wendel. In addition to performing with his own quartet he has also created “Jazz an American Art Form” – a hugely successful jazz educational program that has been presented to over 8,000 students this year.

“When I began playing upright bass, the fact that I felt the sound as much as heard it had a profound effect on me. I was hooked for life.”

— Rob Thorsen

4/11 - Leonard Patton and Peter Sprague

Some people are born to sing. Leonard Patton was just born singing. From his elementary school days when he requested hall passes in order to test the acoustics of the school’s hallways, to his college days of choir and ensembles, Patton has yet to stop singing.

His rich, smoky voice, unique style, and sensational scat soon gained him entrance into San Diego’s jazz scene. He’s been performing and recording with such notable artists as Bill Cunliffe, Derek Nievergelt, Duncan Moore, Mitch Manker, Mike Bedard, Ken Dow, Jetro Da Silva, and countless others.

Peter Sprague is a San Diego based jazz guitarist, composer, arranger, recording engineer, producer, and life-long surfer.

“One of the emergent great guitarists.”
Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times

“As a jazz lover, I have sat front row to see greats such as Joe Pass, Joe Diorio, Anthony Wilson, and Pat Metheny. For those of you who don’t realize this already, Peter Sprague has a place right up there with great jazz guitarists of our time. More than just his instrumental and improvisational prowess, Sprague is a writer-composer of positively world-class abilities.”
Craig Yerkes, San Diego Troubadour

4/25 - Holly Hofmann

Today, Holly Hofmann has taken the flute from its middle-of-the-orchestra origins and made it a front-line instrument in jazz. She has earned the praise and respect of musicians and jazz aficionados for her bluesy, bebop-based improvisations and technical prowess on an instrument that many once regarded as definitely not a jazz horn. Hofmann has proven them wrong and critics have labeled her one of the most authoritative, swinging flutists -- male or female -- in jazz today.

Don’t miss our official Japan fundraising concert with Sue Palmer March 20th!


San Diego’s Boogie Woogie Queen, Sue Palmer, headlines a March 20th fundraiser to help the nationally known Mission Bay High School Preservationists jazz band to raise the remaining funds needed for its April performances in Japan.  Join us for a night of music, food and fun!

Chef Carlos Delgado will be cooking up his famous paella for the event. Come hungry!

Doors open at 6:30PM.  Concert starts at 7:00PM.  This is a family friendly event.  We will have food and adult beverages.

All concerts held at the Inamori Pavilion in the Japanese Friendship Garden, Balboa Park.

2215 Pan American Rd E, San Diego, CA 92101

7:00PM / Doors open at 6:30PM / All ages welcome

Our partners in education:

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