When Frost Amphitheater reopens in the spring, the Stanford and South Bay community will again be able to enjoy live music on the terraced lawn. And thanks to Stanford Live’s two new musical partnerships, the performance offerings are richer than ever.

Frost Amphitheater

Frost Amphitheater will reopen this spring after an extensive renovation project that includes the addition of a state-of-the-art stage and other front- and back-of-house amenities that improve conditions for audience members and performers. (Image credit: Joel Simon)

Stanford Live, the university’s primary performing arts organization, is co-presenting a series of concerts in Frost with Goldenvoice, creator of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and local promoter of over 600 Bay Area concerts annually.

Stanford Live is also co-presenting a summer series in Frost with the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), widely considered to be among the most artistically adventurous and innovative arts institutions in the United States. The Stanford Live-SFS series will take place in July 2019.

“We have found two wonderful collaborators in Goldenvoice and the San Francisco Symphony,” said Chris Lorway, executive director of Stanford Live/Bing Concert Hall. “Both are committed to bringing the highest level of musical experiences to audiences, which aligns beautifully with our mandate at Stanford Live. These annual concerts and events will also provide Stanford an opportunity to engage further with the local community as we collectively build Frost into a preeminent outdoor music venue on the Peninsula.”

Serving the interests of the local community has been a significant factor in the programming at Frost. In keeping with the wide variety of cultural offerings currently available in Stanford’s arts district at the Cantor Arts Center, the Anderson Collection, and Bing Concert Hall and Studio, Frost will offer different kinds of musical performances for a variety of patrons – from rock to pop to classical.

Given the outdoor nature of this iconic venue, the operational features of Frost have been designed with broad community interests in mind. The university has plans to pre-test sound levels in order to balance concert-goers’ experience with that of campus neighbors.

Additionally, concert-goers will be encouraged to join Stanford’s commitment to sustainable transportation. Stanford’s Parking & Transportation Services is currently finalizing a plan to boost knowledge about the best ways patrons can bike, walk, carpool and take public transportation to the concerts.

Bringing Frost back

Frost Amphitheater, the legendary 82-year-old venue, is located at 351 Lasuen St. in the university’s arts district that includes Bing Concert Hall, Cantor Arts Center, the Anderson Collection at Stanford University and the McMurtry Building for the Department of Art and Art History. Frost opened in June 1937, gifted by the parents of John Laurence Frost, ’35, who died of polio just a few months after graduating.

When Frost wasn’t hosting the university’s commencement ceremonies from 1937 to 1983, it was hosting the music of the day: Arthur Fiedler and the San Francisco Symphony, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Jefferson Airplane, the Chambers Brothers, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana Blues Band, Tower of Power, Elvin Bishop, Miles Davis, Joan Baez and the Grateful Dead. More recently, Modest Mouse, E40, Kendrick Lamar and MGMT performed in Frost.

Harry Elam Jr., vice president for the arts at Stanford, said of the promised Frost experience: “We are very excited to have Frost back online as a special place for campus ceremonies and events. In addition, for those who attended Frost concerts in the past, they will have a chance to rekindle those fond memories. For those who are coming to Frost for the first time, they will have the opportunity not only to revel in the music but to soak in the specialness of the environs. Frost provides our neighbors with a wonderful new entry to Stanford and enables us to share a uniquely Stanford arts experience with them.”

The 20-acre site was originally designed by Leslie Kiler, ’24, to echo the California foothills seen from campus. From the inspiration of the curved hills came the creation of a sloped, bowl-like venue. The stage is nestled into trees at the bottom of the bowl’s curve and the seating slopes uphill from there. The bowl structure allows for great views from all spots and amazing acoustics. These historical design features remain center-stage in Palo Alto-based CAW Architects’ renovation that includes the addition of a state-of-the-art stage and other front- and back-of-house amenities that improve conditions for audience members and performers.

The long music season

After several years of working with the student-led Stanford Concert Network on the musical lineup of the annual Frost Music & Arts Festival, Goldenvoice and Stanford Live will now co-present a concert series beginning in the summer and continuing through October each year. The 2019 shows will be announced in the coming months.

“Goldenvoice is honored to be tasked with programming contemporary music at Frost Amphitheater,” said Rick Mueller, North American president of AEG Presents, Goldenvoice’s parent company. “From Miles Davis to Ella Fitzgerald, and Carlos Santana to the Grateful Dead, Frost has hosted the best artists of its time, and the venue’s history serves as a musical blueprint that is hard to match anywhere in the world. We look forward to continuing this great tradition and bringing the best artists of today to Frost with our partners at Stanford Live.”

Frost Music & Arts Festival was held in Stanford Stadium while Frost was being renovated. It will return to the amphitheater on May 18. Lineup and ticketing information will be available in the coming weeks.

The Stanford Live-San Francisco Symphony concert series will take place each summer. Tickets for the following performances go on presale to Stanford Live members and SF Symphony donors and subscribers starting Feb. 19 at 10 a.m., and to the general public starting Feb. 26 at 10 a.m.:

  • Wednesday, July 10 – Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas leads the SFS in an all-Tchaikovsky concert featuring the composer’s Symphony No. 4 and Violin Concerto, performed by American violinist Gil Shaham.
  • Saturday, July 13 – New Zealand-born conductor Gemma New leads the SFS in a concert featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
  • Sunday, July 14 – Same program as July 13.

Building relationships

SFS’s relationship with the Stanford community has been a long and fruitful one. In 1913, only two years after its founding, the Symphony performed its first concert for Stanford students in Assembly Hall. SFS made its debut at Frost Amphitheater four years after its opening, as part of Stanford’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1941, with music director Pierre Monteux conducting.

For more than a decade in the 1960s–70s, the Symphony performed a benefit concert at Frost every summer, conducted by the legendary Arthur Fiedler. Most recently, SFS and Michael Tilson Thomas were featured in the celebratory grand opening concert of Bing Concert Hall in January 2013.

“The San Francisco Symphony is thrilled to strengthen our relationship with Stanford University as we begin our first season in the beautiful and beloved Frost Amphitheater,” said Symphony president and Stanford alumna Sakurako Fisher. “Our orchestra has a great history at Frost and this series serves as a wonderful opportunity for the broader Bay Area community to, once again, enjoy our music under the sun and stars in this historic tree-lined bowl.

“We also hope our unique partnership will allow an even greater exchange of musical ideas through new creative and academic partnerships with Stanford as it continues to carry and lead in the balancing of the arts with the sciences.”