On September 20, I learned of the death of Fred Stites who joined Grand Performances in August 1995 as Production Manager. Our sincere condolences to Fred’s family and friends. No matter what your affiliation with Grand Performances, you benefited from Fred’s passion for the performing arts and his assurance that each performance on the stages at California Plaza would be memorable.
We all know that in this pandemic it is not safe to gather in community to both grieve and celebrate loved ones who have transitioned. I wanted to provide a space where Fred could be remembered by those who worked with and/or were mentored by him.
When I read these anecdotes and memories of Fred, it is clear why he was so loved and admired. He had retired by the time I came to Grand Performances in May 2017. Yet whenever I saw Fred at performances or at holiday Board/staff gathering he would never hesitate to ask how I was doing and offer words of encouragement.
We would also like to invite you to share your memories of Fred, so that we can continue to celebrate his legacy. If you have ever enjoyed a special moment or experience with Fred, please reply to this email and let us know. Many current and former members of our community have shared their feelings below, and we would love to hear from you too.
Rest in Peace Fred Stites.
Remembrance from GP Staff
Fred was a good person. He had a gift. He could easily talk to all kinds of people and make new friends including the homeless that many people don’t care to know about. He had a good heart.
He was a good friend. He was always there for anyone that needed a helping hand. He also loved to eat just like me. He loved all types of food. When we would go out to lunch, we tried not to hit the same place twice.
He loved all types of music. He had a good ear. He was also a great father and grandpa. He loved his family. Chris and Alana are fortunate to have had him as a Dad and I to have worked with him.
Grand Performances would not be possible without Fred Stites. His love for Los Angeles, his support for performing arts, and his demand for high-quality production will forever guide our organization. His legacy is evident from the loving words of his colleagues, friends and family.
Geoff Gallegos (Double G)
daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra
I have many memories of Fred Stites, my favorite is from the first daKAH show at Grand Performances in July of 2001. We had just finished our first set, and were running behind schedule. On my way backstage, he pulled me aside, and reminded me of the 10:10pm curfew. I said something like, “Yeah, I got it.” He didn’t buy that one.
He reiterated that the curfew is 10:10pm, and after that, he would pull the plug.
I said, “I got it.” That didn’t stick either.
He looked me directly in the eye, and made sure I understood. He also wasn’t letting me out of sight until he knew that I got it. The curfew is 10:10pm. He was checking the clock on the side stage, and made sure I saw it as well.
I realized at that point that I had to engage him, and make sure he understood that I would comply. I said something like “I understand, we will be silent by 10:09pm. I understand that the sound will cut off, and we will be in the dark.” That one worked.
At 10:09, we played our last note. He immediately came up to me, very surprised and happy, and thanked me for keeping my word.
That show set off a positive relationship between us, and a pattern of us keeping our word to each other. After dozens of shows, and lots of preproduction, we came to trust each other. Our meetings were always productive and succinct, all business, no B.S.
This is how I remember Fred, as a very professional, kind, and benevolent production manager, with the coolness factor of having played in the Tonight Show Band with Doc Severinsen. He will be missed.
Crew member, Musician Ten Foot Pole
I’m grieving for my amazing friend/boss/mentor Fred Stites, my production manager at Grand Performances where I was an audio tech/mixer for many amazing concerts/events before I gravitated to touring. He brought me on a national jazz tour, one of my first audio tours; I handled sound while he did lights, backline and production management – he drove his car, so he could load in early and avoid conflicts from his fondness of critiquing bus drivers’ techniques.
Fred was one of the most eccentric opinionated and warm people I have known. He loved innovation, and often seemed to prefer whichever approach was the least conventional. He was a very hard worker and was very demanding of his crew, but always with a motivation of providing great quality and service for the artists. He was incredibly supportive and warm, enthusiastically coming to at least two Ten Foot Pole concerts. Music was very important to him (he was a drummer before he shifted into a production career). He also loved food and would smile wickedly over his meals/desserts portions if it seemed we might give a nagging glance. I learned a lot about relating to artists and providing detail-oriented service while under his management, but more importantly, I saw how a boss could be demanding yet kind, critical yet supportive.
Having spent almost fifteen years prior performing and touring, I cannot overstate the relief that our band felt in the capable hands of Fred and his crew. In 1996, Desborde and Sabiá, two music groups that I co-founded, performed a Tribute Concert to Violeta Parra at California Plaza Presents, now known as Grand Performances. This concert was being recorded live for an album to be released later that year. The number of musicians varied from three to fourteen and the instrumentation involved traditional Latin America wind, percussion, and stringed instruments. Known for our vocal blend we were always concerned that our vocals would not get lost and that the many acoustic instruments would be mixed in the right proportion to the electric guitars and keyboards. We had brought our own sound/recording engineer with us to minimize the amount of post-production work we would need to do in the studio.
Unlike many of our other soundchecks and performances on tour, there were no confusing looks when the techs saw our armadillo charango, coupled with an accordion, quenas and zampoñas. Not even all the open mikes and the natural elements of the wind and temperature changes as the evening cooled at Cal Plaza flustered the sound crew. The result was both an amazing performance, but also a wonderful live recording with little post-production adjustment required.
Remembrance from Former Staff
Founding Executive Director
Fred’s interest in people included interests in cultures beyond his own. He set an example of how to live an interesting and productive life; how to contribute to the health of a community through the arts; and how to reach out to meet new people and discover new experiences with an open mind and heart.
Fred brought his aesthetic sense and performing arts history to Grand Performances. His expertise as a sound engineer gave him the “chops” to figure out how to deal with the weird acoustics of an outdoor space surrounded by two glass-clad skyscrapers, a hotel, a multi-story senior housing project and an open space (with water at the base of the stage). By designing the sound for each zone (as he liked to call them), he made sure that each audience area got the fidelity it deserved.
His passion to care for artists made all the difference as we were building our reputation as a credible presenter. This care for each artist and his years of experience on the road made it possible for him to instill a sense of confidence among the traveling techies that they were going to be in good hands. Many artists started out (particularly for the noon concerts) thinking that they had ended up being booked into a shopping center. Fred’s approach and leadership helped them realize we were just a new way of connecting artists and people and that they were going to be in very good hands and that their art was being protected by a very competent crew.
There are no shortages of stories that Fred told about his adventures with performers. Sid Caesar told him humor demands white light. Doc Severinson saw him preparing mics to cover his own percussion instruments and asked him to do the sound for the whole Severinson band which is how Concertech got its start. (He also appeared on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show when an extra percussionist was needed.) Mel Torme relied on him as did numerous other touring artists. He ran the lights for us when we presented a Middle East music program in one of the historic downtown theaters, the Orpheum. This type of performance called for lights to keep changing during each piece during the performance. Unlike many other lighting designers, Fred played the light board like it was a musical instrument. His fingers danced across the panel changing colors right on the beat. I’d never seen a lighting designer do that and haven’t since.
People that the rest of us (I am embarrassed to say) would ignore, he befriended. He brought them to the Plaza as audience and sometimes found ways to give them work to do. He discovered ‘dives’ where some of the most interesting meals were served. He was a great cook himself, known for his Korean spareribs that he prepared at 4th of July parties for years, and loved discovering new foods and new places to eat.
Fred was passionate about discovering new things, about politics (he was just this side of a radical on many issues) and about people. He empowered his crew to do their best. He got along with just about everybody that was part of Grand Performances and California Plaza. He loved to solve problems.
We retired from Grand Performances just a few years apart. I know that he was very happy sharing time with his children and grandchildren. I know that he was also very devoted to other members of his family. He was proud that he had had incredible musical opportunities as a youngster in Kalamazoo, Michigan and a great musical education at North Texas State.
Everyone of us who had Fred in our lives are the richer for it!
Leigh Ann Hahn
Director of Programming
Fred loved music and cared deeply about art and technical aspects of it. He was chiefly responsible for the extremely high-quality production values that became a bragging point for all who were part of the GP team throughout the decades. Fred was an avuncular fellow – generous with his knowledge, life stories and genuine care for all who crossed his path.
When I learned that Fred had passed, my chest hurt from the sadness and loss. Flashback to one of the very first El Vez sound checks, someone from staff asked if it was too loud. Proceeding to explain the sound check process more thoroughly – Fred looked at me straight in the eye and said that music should be not only heard, but that we should feel it. That this type of music, these sound waves, should be felt in the chest. Quirky, deeply knowledgeable, always curious, committed to the highest production standards possible and proud of his children and grandchildren. He’ll be greatly missed – I picture him turning around as he would leave my office, flash a peace sign and share a quick, “Fred and love” and my heart hurts for our world’s loss.
Fred had an amazing warmth. You could always tell when Fred walked into a space. Everyone lit up with smiles, hugs, and excitement. Even when I first met Fred, I felt like I’d know him for ages. Everyone wanted to be in his circle – and he was ready to welcome you!
And his passion for production and music was unmatched. The artists that performed under Fred’s watch trusted him unwaveringly. They knew that they could deliver the best performance possible thanks to his expertise and knowledge.
I am lucky to have known Fred both professionally and as a friend. He will be truly missed, particularly by the arts community of Los Angeles.
Fred and I worked together for five years and I remember lots of vibrant staff meetings and passionate season budget conversations. Fred was deeply caring and thorough and adaptable. Fred loved to exceed the expectations of visiting artists, protect the crew, and take insightful photos.
Director of Production
Words and ideas I associate with Fred Stites:
Passionate – He had many passions but his passion for music was always there, that included caring for and supporting artists he took great care in making them feel like welcome and honored guests.
Opportunity – Fred found many ways to create opportunities for others. Many of the crew that worked for him over the years have experienced this over and over. It is one of the many things that I personally try to do to respect and emulate a mentor.
Mentor – There are many of us who worked with Fred who looked up to him as a Mentor. When tasked with a new situation we would often find ourselves asking what would Fred do? And taking that option into careful consideration of our choices.
Music – He loved music. He would often get so into a particular album that it would stay on continuous repeat in the office for days on end. It was something that gave him some comfort and for some of us sharing space with him it could get a little annoying. We would politely ask for something new or turn it off if he wasn’t around.
Family – Family was important to Fred. While there were times when work kept him away from home, he missed his family and talked about them often.
Food – Whether it was for him or for others, making sure there was something to snack on or drink nearby was part of his welcoming hospitality. There was a time when he was on a personal quest for the best burger in Los Angeles. The quest didn’t seem to end as he would find a new best burger every few months after searching dives and diners in neighborhoods all over LA.
Friendship – Meeting new people and continuing relationships with those he knew for years, Fred was always making friends, from the homeless person that most would ignore to the celebrity, there was a friend and a story to go with it.
Fred – Upon learning that the Danish word for peace was fred, he incorporated that into a parting saying “fred and love”.
GP Sound Engineer
Fred is the only boss I’ve had that I felt always strived for the best quality productions possible and for a safe and healthy work environment with equal and enthusiastic care. He became a close friend and mentor over the years and was always there to talk about the world, work, gods, people, love, and whatever tangent struck us. I can’t imagine meeting anyone with a better grasp on loving life for what it is. I’ll always miss having his perspective in my life… and his crazy stories and questionable jokes too.
Fred was a legend. He cared deeply for his friends and crew and was always good for a dirty joke and a spot of lunch. Fred and Love, always!
Grand Performances’ mission is to inspire community, celebrate diversity, and unite Los Angeles through free access to global performing arts. While all our programming is free, producing it is not. Please support our mission today with a tax-deductible gift or membership ensuring access to GP’s performing arts experiences for the people of Los Angeles.