Circle of Advisors/Community Partner Profile: Danny Scher
By Marian Hubler
Danny Scher greets a guest at the Bread & Roses Fall Benefit at Coventry Grove, 2008. Photo by Ken Friedman.
Danny Scher has been a supporter of Bread & Roses Presents since 1977 when he worked as VP of Production with Bill Graham Presents (BGP) overseeing the logistics of our first Festival of Music at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. Through the years, he has continued his involvement with our organization as a donor and key supporter of our annual fundraising events. He has also hosted benefit concerts with artists including Rita Moreno and Bonnie Raitt at Coventry Grove, an amphitheater at his Kensington home. He is president of DanSun Productions, a concert promotion and consulting company that he started after 24 years with BGP.
Q. How did you first become involved in producing concerts? How did you initially become inspired to have a career in the music industry?
A. I began learning drums in elementary school. While in junior high school in Palo Alto I started attending concerts, and playing in any jazz band I could. In high school, I was the principal percussionist and timpanist in the California Youth Symphony, and volunteered to help put up posters for local concert promoters, including the Monterey Jazz Festival which I have been attending and supporting for over fifty years. My goal was to be a studio musician, but I also wanted to learn how to put on concerts.
I have never been afraid to knock on doors or make phone calls. I was fortunate to receive huge breaks with the earliest benefit concerts I produced for my Palo Alto High School (Paly) International Club, of which I was a member, that featured Vince Guaraldi, Jon Hendricks, Cal Tjader and Thelonious Monk whose fortuitous concert I produced in 1968 as a Paly senior and recorded by an unknown Paly janitor was released last year, winning awards in Japan and just last month was voted Historical Jazz Album of the Year by the jazz critics.
I also met the renowned Duke Ellington at the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel and he agreed to do a benefit concert for the California Youth Symphony while still a senior at Paly.
Coventry Grove, Bread & Roses Fall Benefit, 2008. Photo by Ken Friedman.
My background in jazz music helped me get into Stanford University where I graduated with Honors in Economics and studied abroad in Salamanca, Spain and Santiago, Chile. A health challenge prevented me from playing music in college so I dove full-fledged into my academic career earning an MBA in Business at Stanford afterward. While in business school in 1973, I started producing student-run concerts at Stanford beginning with Joan Baez at Frost Amphitheatre. The success of that concert led to my presenting many artists on campus including Loggins & Messina, Seals & Croft, Gordon Lightfoot, Dave Mason, Journey, Jesse Colin Young, and the Firesign Theatre.
I realized that I had a clear passion and vision for pursuing the music industry as a career. In 1975, Bill Graham heard about the Stanford concerts I had produced with Dave Mason and Journey, along with positive reports about the entertainment that I had brought to the community. Before graduation, he offered me a job as a talent booker, which I did with him for ten years (1975-1985) arranging an average of 350 concerts a year with major artists like the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. From 1985-1999, I developed amphitheaters, including Shoreline, did corporate sponsorships, and whatever else fit into, or not into, our Company. Shoreline became one of the most successful venues of its kind and home of legendary annual music events that I produced including “New Orleans by the Bay” and a "July Fourth San Francisco Symphony" show. Working with Bill was easy. He had one rule, which I always followed, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Danny Scher at an event at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, 1985. Photo by Ken Friedman.
Q. Your career at BGP led you to assist with the production of our earliest Greek Theatre concerts. What memories do you have of Bread & Roses from the early days?
A. I remember when your founder, the late Mimi Fariña, first came in to talk to Bill. We helped with so many things for the first festival of music – tickets, sound, lights, security and insurance. I have continued to support Bread & Roses all these years because of its great heart -- live music freely given by performing artists for isolated people who cannot get out to hear it otherwise. People continue to support Bread & Roses because they understand that the mission is full of heart and that the healing power of live music brings joy through every concert.
In addition to all the benefit concerts at the Greek Theatre through the years, my best memory is perhaps the last show at the SF Opera House for Bread & Roses 25th Anniversary in 2000. It was Mimi’s swan song, her final concert as the guiding light of the organization. She looked absolutely radiant that night beaming at everyone from center stage in a silver dress and turban. It is a memory that is indelibly etched.
Bonnie Raitt at Coventry Grove, Bread & Roses Fall Benefit, 2008. Photo by Ken Friedman.
Q. You are on the board of the Bill Graham Foundation and support a lot of nonprofit organizations including Bread & Roses and SEVA. How do you see philanthropy as being pivotal in today’s world?
A. I believe in supporting artists and in particular, mentoring youth who want to become artists. I like the music being played by younger artists today and know how important it is to keep things relevant. Most people get set in their ways as they become older, but I think I’ve become the opposite. It is important to stay open to different cultures and to help pass the torch to successive generations.
Q. As a member of our Circle of Advisors, you have been a valuable consultant on the business end of our operation. Do you have any thoughts about how we might best position ourselves headed into our 50th anniversary in 2024?
A. People like to come to events to re-live the past, travel down memory lane and create new memories for the future. If Bread & Roses can evoke these feelings and associations, people will be inspired to continue to support the organization with relevant artists for the next fifty years.