History and Mission

In the summer of 2014, Stern Grove Festival will present its 77th Season of admission-free concerts in San Francisco's treasured Sigmund Stern Grove.

Stern Grove was purchased by Rosalie M. Stern and given as a gift to the City of San Francisco in 1931, in memory of her husband Sigmund, a prominent civic leader. George Greene originally homesteaded the Grove - a tract of sand dunes and marshes - in the 1840's. The Greene family planted the first eucalyptus trees in the Grove and built the Trocadero Inn, a popular recreation spot until its closure in 1916.

Marveling at the Grove's natural acoustics, Mrs. Stern determined that the site would be preserved as a park in which the public could enjoy admission-free music, dance, and theater performances. On June 4, 1932, Stern Grove was dedicated. Two weeks later, the San Francisco Symphony played the first concert in the Grove. Mrs. Stern, then President of the San Francisco Recreation Commission, formed the non-profit Stern Grove Festival Association in 1938, stipulating that all concerts were to be free to the public and designed for everyone's enjoyment. The organization's mission guides the Festival to this day:

  • Provide high quality performances, free of charge, for all Bay Area residents and visitors
  • Provide paid performance opportunities for professional artists and performers
  • Serve diverse audiences by presenting a season of varied genres and artists
  • Enhance San Francisco's renown as a cultural center
 

Renovation of Stern Grove

Festival Timeline


Mrs. Stern chaired the Festival until her death in 1956. Her daughter, Elise Stern Haas, served as chairman until 1969; she was succeeded by her daughter, Rhoda Haas Goldman. Following Rhoda Goldman's untimely death in 1996, her son, Dr. Douglas E. Goldman, became Festival Chairman.

Today Stern Grove, a natural amphitheater surrounded by giant eucalyptus, redwood, and fir trees, is one of Northern California's favorite concert sites. In keeping with Mrs. Stern's vision, the wide selection of performers reflects the Festival's commitment to exceptional programming and to serving diverse audiences. A beloved Bay Area tradition, every summer Sunday for nearly seven decades, family and friends gather to relax, picnic, and enjoy performances by some of the world's greatest artists in this glorious natural setting.

While Stern Grove itself is still owned and operated by the City of San Francisco, and Mrs. Stern's descendents remain actively involved, today the Festival is truly a community institution. Each year, the Festival must raise nearly $2 million to produce concerts and related outreach and education programs. Individual donors, volunteers, foundations, government agencies, and businesses provide the generous support that makes it all possible. Stern Grove Festival has brought seven decades of the best performing arts - completely admission-free - to the people of the Bay Area. With your ongoing help, the Festival can look forward to many more years to come.