Much of Stern Grove Festival’s longevity can be attributed to one thing: heart. The heart of its founder, who shared her vision for access to the arts for all. The heart of its audiences and patrons, who have fueled the Festival with applause and donations for eight decades. The heart of its volunteers, who make a gift of their time and hard work. The heart of its dedicated staff and Board of Directors, who are committed to the organization’s success. And last, but not least, the heart of a leader.
Stern Grove Festival is excited to welcome (just in time for its 80th Season!) the organization’s new leader, Executive Director Bob Fiedler.
Read on to learn more about Bob and join us this summer to welcome him to the Grove!
SGFA: What makes a great leader?
BF: I think a leader is someone who can inspire groups of people around a mission – and that’s easier to do when you’re working with a tremendous mission like that of Stern Grove Festival. I think that if you burn with passion on the inside, hopefully you can get others to also come along for the ride and become advocates for the organization. Other important traits are being a great listener, being empathetic, and having strong emotional intelligence in order to care deeply about people and the organization that he or she is serving.
How do you think you will have the greatest impact on the organization?
I think first and foremost my passion for music will have a great impact on my time here. Music is an extremely important part of my life—it’s borderline sacred. It’s been hugely important to me in many, many moments of my life and has brought me some of my happiest times, as well as helped me through many difficult periods.
In addition, I think my overall non-profit experience will be a benefit. I’ve been around the block a little bit now, having run two different arts-based non-profit organizations and having over 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector. I think that all of those experiences have shaped me and given me exposure to lots of different situations that hopefully will serve me here.
What are you most looking forward to in your new position?
I feel extremely honored to have found myself in this position. In the last few days I’ve visited Stern Grove and have found myself pinching my arm, wondering how I got so lucky to be entrusted to work in such a magical place that is an important San Francisco cultural institution. Everything about the Festival—the music, the space, the tradition—it’s all of those things that I’ve been entrusted to take care of and shepherd into its next phase of existence…and I couldn’t be more excited and honored to do so.
I’ve been to a lot of concert venues around the country and I think the Grove is one of the most gorgeous settings in which you could listen to music. It’s that beauty—and the community—that make Stern Grove Festival such a special experience. I think there’s something wonderful about art and musical performance, in that it brings people together. It bridges cultural gaps, it bridges generational gaps, it’s the universal language, and it’s a very unifying thing. I am just so geeked that I get to be a part of this.
As a recent transplant, what do you like most about living in the Bay Area?
The Bay Area…what a special and unique place this is. Having traveled to over 30 countries, I’ve been to a lot of the major cities around the world. There’s no other place that quite combines such a desirable climate with this level of physical gorgeousness (the mountains, the redwood, palm and eucalyptus trees, the ocean, and the bridges) and with great people.
California is a pretty progressive place, but I think that San Francisco is the epicenter of that. There is a lot of amazing innovation and thinking that goes on here, and I couldn’t be happier to be here.
And last but not least, what concert are you most looking forward to this summer?
Well, I’m looking forward to all of the concerts for different reasons. But from a purely musical standpoint I think I’m most looking forward to our second concert of the season, July 2 with Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers and Fantastic Negrito. I love that they’re both local artists, and both have really great reputations within the music world. I’m also really excited for The Big Picnic on June 25th with Kool & the Gang, because it’s going to be a big shindig and a very well-attended show. That being said, I am truly looking forward to each and every show.
About Bob Fiedler
Bob brings over 20 years experience in the nonprofit sector, 13 at the executive level for two different arts performance/educational organizations. Most recently he served as the Executive Director of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project (CHRP), a nonprofit performing and educational arts organization that presents dance performances and dance festivals, runs the American Rhythm Center dance school, and provides weekly dance education to public school students.
Previously, Bob was the Executive Director of The People’s Music School (TPMS), a prestigious community music school that provides ongoing music lessons for thousands of young people completely free of charge. TPMS also provides free concerts to the public, featuring nationally recognized artists and was on the forefront of bringing the innovative “El Sistema” music education methodology to the United States. While at TPMS, Mr. Fiedler worked very closely with the Ravinia Festival to bring hundreds of children to their summer concerts and help TPMS build orchestral programs in public schools. Prior to his tenure at TPMS, Mr. Fiedler was Development Director for REST, a community-based homeless services agency in Chicago. He began his nonprofit career with the Chicago Muscular Dystrophy Association, serving first as a District Director and then moving up to Regional Coordinator.