Music History: The Music Center Turns the Big 5-0

The performing arts complex that Los Angeles so badly deserved celebrates half a century

By the early 1960s, when fund-raising was under way for the Music Center, it was clear that L.A. needed a performing arts venue that would be comparable to Lincoln Center, which was being constructed 2,800 miles away in New York. The Music Center’s most vocal proponent was Dorothy Buffum Chandler—friends called her Buff—a department store heiress and the wife of Los Angeles Times publisher Norman Chandler, who had fought to save the Hollywood Bowl when it closed briefly due to lack of funding. The moment Dorothy joined the effort, she was prospecting for money from anybody who would listen, including Walt Disney, Bob Hope, 20th Century Fox (the studio donated proceeds from Cleopatra), even president John F. Kennedy, who endowed four chairs. Designed by architect Welton Becket in the New Formalist style, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion opened in December 1964 (the Ahmanson Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum would come later that decade) and was hailed as a “20th-century Parthenon on our downtown Acropolis.” For 25 years Academy Award winners paraded beneath the Dorothy Chandler’s trio of Cadillac-size crystal chandeliers in the lobby. The building remains a testament to a city on its way to becoming a cultural capital.


50th Anniversary Spectacular & Gala Dinner
On December 6 the Dorothy Chandler hosts the L.A. Opera, the L.A. Master Chorale, and L.A. Dance Project, which premieres a work conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Then it’s on to a black-tie dinner.

Next 50 Party
KCRW DJs, themed bars, and food come to the plaza on December 7.