In the 100 years since then, musical performers — from Ella Fitzgerald, to the Beatles, to the Doors, and Billie Eilish — have played under the iconic, pearly-white band shell, tucked into the Hollywood Hills.
Julia Ward, director of humanities for the LA Phil and editor of the new book, “Hollywood Bowl: The First 100 Years,” says the founders of the Bowl imagined a venue where music could be shared by everyone. “They all had a really intense philosophy about democratizing music.”
The LA Phil held its first concert at the Bowl on March 21, 1921, but opened officially the following year. The opening coincided with a renewed commitment to the arts, following the end of World War I and the Spanish flu. “There was this desire to produce American art,” Ward says, drawing parallels to our culture today. “There was this deep desire to be connected, to create culture.”
From that first concert, on Easter in 1921, the Bowl was a hit with Angelenos and out-of-town visitors. “Ten thousand people descended from the hills, sitting on blankets,” Ward says. “Pacific Electric started running trains at 3 o'clock in the morning to get everyone there.”
Gustavo Dudamel, the Grammy-winning conductor and LA Phil’s music and artistic director, debuted at the Bowl in 2005. “I don't think you could find a better match between a music director and a venue,” Ward says, noting the conductor’s commitment to the audience and to the founders’ philosophy.
“This is such an accessible space,” says Ward of the 18,000-seat venue. Ticket prices may have gone up, but just about anyone can still see classical music at the Hollywood Bowl for $1 on Tuesday and Thursday nights.