‘Music has the power to heal’: Bodhi Tree Concerts return for 12th year

Music by Johannes Brahms will be featured in the Bodhi Tree concert "Brahms & Beer" on April 29 in La Jolla.
Music by Johannes Brahms will be featured in the Bodhi Tree concert “Brahms & Beer” on April 29 at the La Jolla Community Center.
(Bodhi Tree Concerts)

The La Jolla-based series includes five performance dates between March 19 and Sept. 23 with a collective theme of music being a balm for the soul.


The La Jolla-based Bodhi Tree Concerts series is in its 12th year, looking to answer the fundamental question, why do we listen to music?

The answer, as Bodhi Tree Concerts co-founder Walter DuMelle sees it, is that music is healing for the soul.

“We listen to music because we like it, but we feel that it mirrors something that we experience in our own life,” he said. “And in doing so, we’re less alone. We’re surrounded by others that may share similar wants, likes, fears, desires and concerns in life. Music brings us together in that it allows us to be reminded of that. Music has the power to heal and bring comfort and joy.”

With that concept in mind, this year’s Bodhi Tree Concerts lineup is loosely united by the theme of music being a balm for the soul.

The five-date series will be performed mostly at La Jolla venues.

The opening concert March 19 will feature Ken Anderson, Dale Fleming and Friends, who have performed Bodhi Tree shows in the past.

“They are just so spirit-filled and soulful,” said DuMelle, who started the series with his wife, Diana.

“There is so much out there that is challenging our sense of well-being, so the music in the concert is uplifting and filled with hope,” Anderson said.

Fleming said “music in all its parts — the words, the act of singing and the sounds themselves — can be healing.”

Though the playlist for the concert is still being compiled, Fleming said there will be songs of faith, songs from her childhood and what she considers “healing songs” like Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Fleming said she hopes listeners will leave the show feeling hopeful. “There is so much we have been through in the last few years: school shootings, global warming, the pandemic and wars,” she said. “We hope this little bit of time together brings some escape. That is what we hope to share with the audience.”

The second concert in the series will introduce the communal act of drinking and singing bar songs with “Brahms & Beer” on April 29.

“The idea that collective singing in a group allows us just to stay connected with each other, we let go of our ego, we’re singing fun drinking songs,” DuMelle said. “Words will be in front of you, beer will be in your hand, the accordion will be playing along onstage — what’s not to love, right? So it’s sort of that joy of making music together, collectively in a stronger voice together than we ever could do independently.”

From the beginning, Bodhi Tree Concerts has had the mission of supporting local musical artists and partnering with nonprofits and others. Each concert has a beneficiary organization for ticket proceeds.

The third concert in the lineup will pair the music of Cole Porter with a therapy organization the late composer might have appreciated.

“He’s an icon of the American Songbook genre,” DuMelle said of Porter. “We all know a lot of the songs from ‘Anything Goes’ and ‘Kiss Me, Kate’ and like these standard songs, so audiences will get to just sit back and listen and relish the thought of who had their favorite recording [of those songs]. But for us, the charity connection was of most interest.”

The beneficiary of the “Best of Cole Porter” concert May 20 will be San Diego Therapeutic Horsemanship, which uses horses to assist in trauma-related therapy.

“Cole Porter loved horses,” DuMelle said. “He had a tragic horse accident … and he lost use of both of his legs for the rest of his life. He was wheelchair-bound, but he still loved horses. He always provided for them and they were part of his life. So when somebody brought our attention to Therapeutic Horsemanship ... where they use horses as a way of trauma therapy to bring people back from painful experiences, it really resonated with the theme of what music can do.”

Bodhi Tree Concerts will present the Music en la Calle Festival on June 24 in San Diego.

Then its final show of the 2023 season will be the San Diego premiere of “Autumn Valentine” on Sept. 23. The chamber opera by American composer Ricky Ian Gordon is set to texts by late writer Dorothy Parker. Gordon is slated to appear and hold a preshow lecture and talkback.

“Dorothy Parker was part of that pack of brilliant New York writers of the ‘20s and ‘30s,” DuMelle said. “She hung around with Porter and all those cultural movers and shakers of the early part of the 20th century and she was a wit and she had these little vignettes she would write. She would have a way of wrapping together 20 words and it was just brilliant.”

“The hope is to leave every audience member going ‘Wow, I just experienced something and I’m richer for it.’”

— Walter DuMelle, Bodhi Tree Concerts co-founder

Collectively, the concerts serve to remind audiences that “we all experience the human condition in very similar, emotional ways,” DuMelle said. “Bodhi Tree has a growing cadre of local artists that we know and love. We give these artists a lot of leeway to just express themselves and share a vision of the power of music in the way they think makes much sense.

“The hope is to leave every audience member going ‘Wow, I just experienced something and I’m richer for it.’ And whether you’ve had a contract at the Metropolitan Opera or you’re just a local person that’s been sitting at the piano bar playing for the last 40 years, the truth of that experience can happen across the board. That’s the environment we try to create for our artists, which they can then share with you, the audience.”

Bodhi Tree Concerts 2023 season


Ken Anderson, Dale Fleming and Friends: 4 p.m. Sunday, March 19, at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 743 Prospect St., La Jolla. Benefiting the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir Scholarship Fund.

“Brahms & Beer”: 7 p.m. Saturday, April 29, at the La Jolla Community Center, 6811 La Jolla Blvd. Benefiting the Choral Consortium of San Diego.

“Best of Cole Porter”: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 20, at the La Jolla Community Center, 6811 La Jolla Blvd. Benefiting San Diego Therapeutic Horsemanship.

Music en la Calle Festival: Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 24, at Tierra Central, 41st Street and University Avenue, San Diego. Benefiting the city of San Diego.

“Autumn Valentine”: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, at UC San Diego Park & Market, 1100 Market St., San Diego. Benefiting NAACP San Diego.

Cost: Individual concerts are $30 ($20 for students and military members); $40 for “Autumn Valentine.” Season tickets are $100.