Scheduled to reopen in 2019
A storied stage gets even better
Frost Amphitheater is one of more than a dozen venues for live music on campus, but the history and folklore surrounding the place make it uniquely attractive to musicians with any sense of reverence.
Funded by the parents of John Laurence Frost, '35, who died of polio at age 23, just a few months after graduating, Frost Amphitheater opened in June 1937.
The 20-acre site was designed by Leslie Kiler, '24, to echo the California foothills seen from campus – thus the slope. Residents of Frost include a wild turkey and a handful of hawks.
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, the Grateful Dead, Mos Def, Modest Mouse, Kendrick Lamar and MGMT.
Frost Amphitheater is undergoing a renovation that will maintain the quality, the essence and the sense of place that characterize the venue, a tree-lined bowl next to Bing Concert Hall in Stanford's arts district. The improvements will support two distinct functions: a public face with adequate amenities to enhance the audience experience, and a service side to enable ease of operations and the performer experience.
The stage will be reconfigured with a permanent canopy constructed of distinctive columns and trusses. An associated “back-of-the-house” building, screened by the stage wall, will provide much-needed program support spaces, including a green room, dressing rooms for artists, catering space and bathrooms.
In addition, Stanford will improve access for disabled persons, add more bathrooms for audiences, and enhance the main public entry plaza on Lasuen Mall, with a secondary entrance on the southeast corner of the amphitheater.
CAW’s renovation of Stanford University’s Laurence Frost Amphitheater breathes new life into this historic venue, providing new audience and production support through careful interventions into the wooded landscape. The design of a new stage house building embeds the back-of-house space into the hillside, while framing the stage with a strong landform behind and delicate canopy above. The curving geometry of the stage house and canopy echoes the naturalistic forms of the surrounding berm, conforming gently to the existing topography while preserving the site’s quiet beauty. On the audience side, a new access tunnel and new pathways nestled into the trees provide better access to the seating areas, while two new wood-clad restroom buildings provide much-needed amenities. Out of sight, but still critical to the amphitheater’s function, a new loading dock and tunnel complete the backstage improvements, dramatically improving production access to the venue.
Since its completion in 1937, Frost Amphitheater has been host to everything from intimate Stanford community events, grand commencement ceremonies, and popular musical acts like The Grateful Dead, to speeches by prominent dignitaries and classical concerts complete with fireworks. To continue supporting this rich range of events, the project improves functionality for the amphitheater as a modern performance venue, while preserving the visual continuity and natural beauty of this forested site.
Stanford Live presents a wide range of performances from around the world fostering a vibrant learning community and providing distinctive experiences through the performing arts. With its home at Bing Concert Hall, Stanford Live is simultaneously a public square, a sanctuary, and a lab, drawing on the breadth and depth of Stanford to connect performance to the significant issues, ideas and discoveries of our time. Crucially, it supports the university’s focus on placing the arts at the heart of a Stanford education.
In addition to Bing Concert Hall, Stanford Live presents performances at Memorial Auditorium, Memorial Church, and programming will expand into Frost Amphitheater upon completion of the renovation project.
The Office of Special Events & Protocol (OSEP), a division within the University’s Office of Development, is responsible for the oversight and execution of Stanford’s major public ceremonies including the recent presidential inauguration of President Tessier-Lavigne which was held in the Frost Amphitheater, October 2016. OSEP also plans high profile, high impact special events such as those that involve visiting heads-of-state and their delegations. OSEP organizes and produces Commencement Weekend, Family Weekend, and other special events hosted by the President and Provost some of which will utilize the new amphitheater space.
When Frost re-opens its doors it will also be used for other Big 5 events including: New Student Orientation for new Frosh students and their families, Reunion Homecoming for alumni gatherings, Admit Weekend for newly-accepted students and their families, Commencement Weekend for graduation diploma ceremonies as well as special staff appreciation gatherings like the Multi-Cultural Spring Fair.
Stanford Concert Network organizes the annual Frost Music & Arts Festival in May, and plans to continue the tradition after completion of the renovation project.
Construction starts 2017
Completion in 2019
- Feb. 15, 2017, Trustees address a range of issues including the Frost renovation project. By Kathleen J. Sullivan
- Jan. 23, 2017, Stanford arts leadership capitalizes on Arts Initiative momentum and includes the Frost renovation in the next phase for the arts. By Robin Wander