Our Story

Segerstrom Hall under construction circa 1985

Early Days

In the late 1960s, a number of Orange County's community leaders decided it was time to have a world-class performing arts venue in which local, regional and esteemed guest artists and companies from all over the world could perform for the rapidly growing and culturally diverse population. Businesses were headquartering here and major educational institutions were being established. The Philharmonic Society of Orange County, Pacific Chorale and Pacific Symphony needed a concert hall with seating and acoustics appropriate to their needs and the caliber of their performances; a setting in which to grow and achieve greater prestige and recognition.

By the mid-70s, the center had its site: a five-acre parcel of land donated by the local Segerstrom Family.

The vision the Center's founders became reality September 29, 1986, when the Orange County Performing Arts Center opened with a concert in its Segerstrom Hall – one of the nation’s most innovative and technically advanced homes for the performing arts with a gala concert featuring the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta.  World-renowned soprano Leontyne Price sang the National Anthem.  Actor James Whitmore narrrated a performance of Aaron Copland's A Lincoln Portrait and composer William Kraft's Of Ceremonies, Pageants and Ceremonies, which was commissioned for the event, was given its world premiere. Orange County's Center for music, dance, Broadway and arts education had arrived.

Another Step Forward

In 1998, the Segerstrom family deeded another parcel of land to the Center, and just two years later, Henry Segerstrom provided the lead gift $40 million to the Center's $200 million campaign, dedicated to the purpose of constructing a concert hall, a multi-use theater, an education center, public restaurant and community plaza.  It was the largest charitable cash gift in the history of Orange County.


Connector Sculpture

The new  Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall opened in 2006 and was named after the Center’s founding chairman and his late wife. The adjacent 500-seat theater was designated Samueli Theater in recognition of the $10 million gift from the Henry Samueli Family Foundation. 

This was a watershed year for the Center and the community. In April, Connector, a sculpture uniting the Center's original structure with the newer venues and created by renowned artist Richard Serra, was installed on the new community plaza. The towering steel structure was commissioned by Elizabeth and Henry Segerstrom. On September 14th, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a host of other state and local dignitaries participated in a community dedication ceremony in the concert hall. The highlight of the year occurred on September 15 when the Center inaugurated its new concert hall with a spectacular concert by Pacific Symphony led by its music director, Carl St. Clair, and featuring Plácido Domingo singing the world premiere of Canciones de Lorca by composer William Bolcom.  The evening also included performances by Pacific Chorale. The following night, St.Clair, Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale performed the world premiere of Philip Glass’ The Passion of Ramakrishna.

Concert Hall
On January 12, 2011, the Center was named Segerstrom Center for the Arts to honor the extraordinary contributions of the Segerstrom family, whose unwavering commitment has been at the core of the Center's success.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts and its venues are situated in a 14-acre multidisciplinary campus of the same name that encompasses two other major arts organizations. These include the Tony® Award-winning South Coast Repertory and the future site of the new Orange County Museum of Art.

The Center is committed to supporting artistic excellence on all of its stages and offering unsurpassed performances and educational experiences, engaging the entire community in new and exciting ways through the unique power of live performance and an array of inspiring programs.

The Next Act

In the fall of 2014, the Center expanded on its 27-year relationship with the American Ballet Theatre and announced the creation of the American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie Ballet School at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The school bears the name of William J. Gillespie, who has been a board member of ABT since 1999 and an enthusiastic and generous donor to the Center for much of its history.  The ABT Gillespie School will open in September 2015 and will be led by Alaine Haubert, A former dancer and ballet mistress with ABT and noted dance teacher and coach. This historic partnership looks to the future to offer unrivaled opportunities for training, nurturing future generations of dancers and dance audiences as well as furthering the development and evolution of dance.

Orange County Performing Arts Center