In its 77 years of providing free summer concerts to the public, the Stern Grove Festival has provided a stage for 770 different performances and entertained over six million attendees. Crazy, right?
Located on 19th Avenue and Sloat, Stern Grove is easy to get to for people who live in the Sunset District, but for people who live downtown or even further away, Stern Grove is a long way to go for a concert, even if it is free. This was the inspiration to start Grove on the Road, a program launching in early May that will be hosting "pop-up" concerts all over San Francisco.
"We started wondering how we could move beyond our confines of Stern Grove," says Steven Haines, who's been executive director of the Stern Grove Festival since 2006. "Even though it's free admission, some people can't make it to Stern. We wanted to engage communities who aren't so involved with the arts. We wanted to give more back to the community."
Grove on the Road will kick off of May 4 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at China Basin Park near Pier 48, as part of Bayview's Sunday Streets festival. The kick-off will feature performances by the local orchestral bands The Family Crest (who opened for OK Go at a Stern Grove concert in August 2012) and Magik Magik Orchestra, as well as a hands-on art activity and an "instrument petting zoo." Check out the Stern Grove website for a complete list of "Grove on the Road" artists.
In addition to Grove on the Road, Stern Grove will also be hosting its free summer concerts as per usual, beginning on June 22 with "The Big Picnic," which will feature Smokey Robinson. The lineup for the rest of the concerts will be announced on May 1.
"We want the main stage concerts and the pop-up concerts to work in unison," Haines says. "I want to see main stage artists we have had in the past go out on the road, and I want to see new talent we find and work with for Grove on the Road someday perform on the main stage of the festival."
The majority of the artists at the pop-up concerts and the main stage concerts are local, as Stern Grove Festival is "really about promoting local," Haines says. "That is part of our mission."
Although the Stern Grove concerts are always free, they could use some help to stay that way. More than 800 volunteers help out the Grove every year, some of whom have been coming to the concerts since they were children and have been volunteering for 30 or 40 years. If you're interested in volunteering, check out the website for ways you can help out.
"I really think this season is one of the most diverse seasons you will see at the festival," Haines says. "It's a season where everyone will find something to love."