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By Miriam Raftery

Photos: New magnolia tree and crowd outside; vocalist Stephanie Noriega and Mayor Bill Wells performing piano and vocal accompaniment of "Hallelujah" at grand opening of The Magnolia performing arts center

September 11, 2019 (El Cajon) – Community members from across the region flocked to the grand opening of The Magnolia performing arts center in downtown El Cajon yesterday.  More than $8 million has been spent remodeling the former East County Performing Arts Center, which had been closed for a decade but has now blossomed anew.

As the setting sun sent a starburst shining through a newly planted magnolia tree out front, visitors inside saw renovations including a new VIP viewing area, multiple bars serving up food and beverages including cocktails, backstage dressing rooms,  a shimmering new gold curtain and more.

Live Nation offered tours to the public, along with free foods from local vendors ranging from tamales to grilled corn, as well as chances to spin a wheel and win prizes including tickets to upcoming concerts. The company has hired 100 staffers including 89 El Cajon residents.

A new gold curtain rose on entertainment that included a professional pianist as well as a duet of “Hallelujah” performing by local vocalist Stephanie Noriega and El Cajon’s Mayor Bill Wells playing piano as well as singing backup. View an excerpt:

Mayor Wells liked seeing the restored Magnolia center to rediscovering an old friend “all grown up.”  He said the Magnolia is now “the best it’s ever been,” adding, “The chess piece that made it all work was Live Nation coming on and working with us.”

Councilman Phil Ortiz recalled his brother getting his start in the performing arts on the Magnolia’s stage; he now performs on Broadway, the new Councilmember said.  Councilman Bob McClellan recalled early doubts about whether the theater should be saved due to the high cost of renovations needed, but voiced gratitude to see it finally reopened.  Councilman Steve Goble was also present, thanking all involved.

The City issued a proclamation declaring Sept. 10 “Live Nation Day.”  Live Nation representative Arich Berghammer voiced delight and surprise, praising the city for being its partnership.

Live Nation then presented the city with a guitar, striking a harmonious chord for the future.

The restored performing arts center, long known as a jewel in our region for its excellent acoustics, will be available for rentals on dates when Live Nation is not utilizing the facility, including outdoor patio space, the theater itself and the new VIP lounge.

Shows for the season will begin Sept. 12 with a performance by Queen Nation, followed by headliners ranging from folk music icon Art Garfunkel to comedian  Kathleen Madigan to rock and roll Hall of Famer Dave Mason, Latin star Ramon Ayala, pop music icon Patti LaBelle and more.

The full lineup includes:

  • 9/24/19 Al Di Meola - Past, Present, Future – Music of Di Meola, Piazzolla & The Beatles US Fall Tour 2019) – Jazz artist Al Di Meola
  • 10/1/19 Roy Orbison & Buddy Holly - The Rock ‘N’ Roll Dream Tour – Featuring the two classic rock’n’roll stars in a special hologram performance with a backup band.
  • 10/9/19 Dave Mason Feelin’ Alright  - The Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Famer performs with very Special Guest Richie Furay – English singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 10/13/19 Patti LaBelle In Concert - LaBelle (photo, right) began her career in the early 1960s as lead singer and front woman of the vocal group, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles.
  • 10/16/19 Masterchef Junior Live! - Featuring head-to-head cooking competitions with past MASTERCHEF JUNIOR all-stars and fan favorites, Q&A sessions, and an overall immersive audience experience fun for all ages.
  • 10/17 Leo Dan - Leopoldo Dante Tévez, known as Leo Dan, is an Argentine composer and singer born in Villa Atamisqui, Santiago del Estero Province. He recorded more than 20 albums during his long career during the late 20th century between Argentina and Mexico.
  • 10/27/19 Dream Theater: Distance Over Time Tour + 20 Years of Metropolis Pt. 2 – Progressive - American progressive metal band
  • 10/18/19 Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo - American singer, songwriter, actress, and four-time Grammy Award winner. (photo, right, Pat Benatar)
  • 1/9/20 Art Garfunkel – Co-star of the famous Simon and Garfunkel folk music duo (photo, right).
  • 2/20/20 Kathleen Madigan – Hot Dogs & Angels Tour – Comedian has appeared on late-night comedy TV shows and headlined USO shows to entertain U.S. troops.
  • 3/7/20 Dennis DeYoung  - American singer-songwriter, musician, producer and founding member of the rock band Styx.

Further show details and tickets are available at:

More information:  #TheMagnoliaSD,  @TheMagnoliaSD

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