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Inaugural Concert Hall Members Provide Virtuoso Support
Bing Concert Hall opened to rave reviews. Members of the organization that sustains it can take a bow.
Two summers in a row, Elizabeth "Libby" Roth and Ronald Katz traveled to Salzburg, Austria, for the city's famed music festival. Little did they know world-class music soon would come to their home, Palo Alto.
The two attorneys regularly walk their dog on the Stanford campus, where Katz also teaches occasionally at the law school. Recently, "it suddenly registered that an extraordinary new concert hall was going to be built only five minutes from our house," says Roth.
In Our Backyard
That's just the kind of reaction a small group of Stanford volunteers, the Bing Concert Hall Task Force, was hoping for. Thanks to the generosity and vision of Helen and Peter Bing, '55, Stanford was finally going to have a performance hall worthy of a leading university with bold aspirations in the arts. But just as tuition does not cover the full cost of a Stanford education, ticket sales alone would not support the top-flight series planned for the intimate, 842-seat hall.
“People have stepped forward and said, ‘What can I do? How can I be involved?’ That shows a real sense of ownership, which is important to any kind of program.”
—Linda Meier, ’61
Chaired by extraordinary volunteer Linda Meier, '61, who has been awarded the university's Degree of Uncommon Woman among many other distinctions, the task force launched the Bing Inaugural Membership Program, offering a package of members-only premiums created by and for lovers of the performing arts.
Katz and Roth considered the opportunity tailor-made. In fact, eager supporters purchased more than 130 inaugural memberships, providing $1.75 million to help underwrite programming even before the finishing touches were put on the hall.
"The support was truly overwhelming," says Meier. "It demonstrates both the community's desire for a facility of this quality and an appreciation for this extraordinary gift from the Bings."
Among the first to join were Ginger and Dan Oros, '03.
"It's a wonderful thing to have at Stanford and in the community, so we're really motivated to support it," says Dan Oros, who remembers speaking to Helen Bing years ago about her dream for a new concert hall. "It was fantastic to see it happen."
"We both grew up with music in our homes," says Ginger Oros, whose mother is a pianist. "It's something we both value and a tradition we want to continue." After moving from San Francisco to Menlo Park in 2011, the couple commuted back to the city to hear the San Francisco Symphony. They will still make that trip occasionally, she predicts, but "not as often to hear music, which is right here in our own backyard."
Putting Stanford Arts on the World Map
"Silicon Valley is a major technology center but, frankly, it hasn't been known as a major cultural center," says Katz. "I think this is a major step in that direction."
Indeed, Stanford's presence in the arts is growing nationally and internationally, with students regularly interning in New York theaters and museums, for example, and visual artists and musicians coming to Stanford from all over the world for performances and residencies. In the next two years, the Anderson Collection at Stanford University and the McMurtry Building for art and art history will open to round out the university's growing Arts District.
"To have a performing arts center and concert hall of this caliber is appropriate for the Stanford community because Stanford epitomizes excellence," says Meier. "Students now have the opportunity to experience the performing arts in a world-class venue right on campus, which will invigorate the arts in the entire Stanford community."
Already a campus landmark, the Bing "will come to be recognized as an international icon over time," she predicts. "This extraordinary venue and the international performances we are able to host will make a statement."
An Intimate Community
Each year, Bing members receive sought-after perks, such as reserved parking, advance-purchase season tickets, and special events with world-renowned artists and faculty. For inaugural members, that included a few once-in-a-lifetime moments.
During a special tour of the hall led by Peter Bing, says Ginger Oros, "hearing him speak about the thoughtfulness that went into creating the hall, and to hear how moved he was by it all, was really inspiring."
And then there was hearing Yo-Yo Ma. "It's hard to describe how unique and exciting that performance was," says Dan Oros.
Opening night performers also included the San Francisco Symphony. A highlight, recalls Roth, came when their conductor paid tribute to the new venue. "Michael Tilson Thomas paused, looked around, and said, 'Isn't this beautiful?'"
"I think the inaugural members felt they were part of something truly unique," says Meier, who anticipates an even greater role for the group as the program evolves. "People have stepped forward and said, 'What can I do? How can I be involved?' That shows a sense of ownership, which is important to any kind of program. It gives you the stability you really need."
Indeed, the modest size of the hall engenders a sense of community. Katz and Roth met Van Cliburn Gold Medal–winning pianist Jon Nakamatsu, '91, MA '92, as he mingled casually with guests during intermission.
"To speak to such a renowned artist in such a setting was a real thrill," says Katz.
Nakamatsu's performance was part of a season-long, campus-wide collaboration known as The Beethoven Project. For the project's finale, the Stanford Symphony Orchestra will embark on a European tour this summer with the theme "In Beethoven's Footsteps."
Although the orchestra is headed to Europe this year, Roth and Katz don't feel the need.
"Stanford has lived up to the standard of the hall by bringing in world-class artists," says Katz. "And it's a lot closer than Salzburg."
Learn more about the benefits of Bing Concert Hall membership.