Thanks to Tom Petty’s Signed guitar, the show may go on at Starlight Bowl


Fender Stratocaster Guitar Donated by Fender and signed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers



The Save Starlight initiative to resurrect the historic starlight bowl in Balboa Park is in the middle of collecting celebrity signatures on guitars to auction on our future opening gala. The Fender Corporation donated guitar that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers signed that is believed to be their last instrument signed. Guernsey's auction house in New York City auctioned off the guitar on Dec. 2nd. The guitar sold for $15,000!

Thank you Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers!!


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Artwork by Emily Wilker

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Save Starlight is an initiative working to restore, revive and revitalize Starlight Bowl—an open-air amphitheater in the heart of San Diego’s Balboa Park. The Bowl has been closed since 2012, and has fallen into disrepair.

We envision a venue for open-air performances, concerts, cinema, festivals, plays, community events, and musical theater. 

We imagine a new generation of diverse performances, a stage for the San Diego community hosting magical entertainment experiences. Our goal is to preserve the Bowl’s heritage, ensure accessibility, and use creative technology to address opportunities and challenges for its location and architecture.


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The Ford Bowl was commissioned by the Ford Motor Company for the 1935­-36 California Pacific International Exposition. In its early days the Bowl was home to symphony concerts broadcast via radio across the country, and other events. The name was changed to Starlight Bowl in the 1970s.

The Bowl is probably best known as home to the SD Civic Light Opera Starlight summer musicals most seasons from the late 1950s until 2012. Since the SDCLO folded in 2012, the Bowl has languished and fallen into disrepair.





The Bowl is located in the Palisades area of San Diego’s beloved Balboa Park. It is directly under the flight path for San Diego’s airport, the busiest single runway airport in the US, Lindbergh Field.

For decades, theatrical performances would “freeze” mid-scene or song as the planes passed overhead. As air traffic increased dramatically so did the noise and interruptions, creating problems for the venue’s traditional programming.





Step 1: Campaign

Stop the decline of the Bowl through maintenance and care.

Build a coalition of volunteers, leaders, advisors, supporters and participants.

Develop a sustainable operating plan.


Step 2: Rehabilitation

Phase 1: Secure and fund raise

Phase 2: Rehabilitate and retrofit concessions and ticketing building including main     

                   entrance to the Bowl. 

Phase 3: Test lighting and technology

Phase 4: Programming  


Step 2: Operations

Plan coming soon

Frequently Asked Questions





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Save Starlight—a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization—is a grassroots initiative led by a team with experience in theatre technology, urban culture, community production, urban revitalization, historic preservation, and sustainable business. Our growing team has a deep commitment to the heritage of the Bowl and surrounding park. Our DIT (do it together) spirit is generating collective momentum across San Diego for this vision.

CEO and Founder

Steve Stopper is the former audio technician for Starlight. He currently runs the largest audio, video design service, in San Diego, with customers ranging from the NFL to the Navy. Stopper is also the founder of The School for Creative Careers, a nonprofit focused on giving students experiences in real world performance art environments.


BOARD OFficials 

Chairman of the Board

Steve Karo has performed as a percussionist from Boston to Los Angeles for over 50 years, including many years as percussionist for Starlight Opera at Starlight Bowl. He founded the Save Our Balboa movement when Balboa Theatre faced imminent destruction; He was a founding member of the Balboa Theatre Foundation and listed as agent by the State of California.


Sherry Register CPA by occupation. I have volunteer experience as a board member as treasurer and in event planning.


Mary Karo was a member of the San Diego Symphony, San Diego Opera and California Ballet Orchestras and created the Festival String Trio, Quartet, and Orchestra. She was a leader and musical contractor for Starlight Opera for 5 years and subsequently for San Diego Lyric Opera.


Stan Canaris recently retired after 36 years of service within the Sweetwater Union High School District as a teacher, football coach and dean of activities at various schools. He oversaw the opening of Eastlake High School in 1992 and served as vice principal before assuming the role of principal in 1995. It was under his leadership that the school, then the newest in the district, earned recognition as a California Distinguished School as well as numerous athletic banners. Upon retirement, to honor him and his contributions to the District and the community, Eastlake High named its athletic stadium Stan Canaris Stadium. He also taught and was head football coach at Hilltop High, taught at Sweetwater High School, and served as dean of activities at Mar Vista High School. Stan is a life-time member and Vice President of Eastlake Education Foundation.  He has received numerous awards over the years. Highlights of these are: Administrator of the Year at Sweetwater Union High District, San Diego Proclamation, Coach of the Year, Certificate of Congressional Recognition, Recognition from President George W. Bush.

Kevin Charles Patterson comes to San Diego after an extensive career in the performing arts which has taken him on tours for productions around the world. He is also the Executive Director of the San Diego International Fringe Festival as well as the Nations of San Diego International Dance Festival. He is a graduate of the University of the Arts (formerly Philadelphia College of Performing Arts), where he received a BFA in Theatre/Dance.

Steve Woodard A Graduate of Denver University (DU) achieving a degree in Business with an emphasis in Finance.  He is a local Businessman and Entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in Business Development and Strategic Planning and Startups. Having previously held senior leadership roles in Fortune 50 companies as well as Start-ups in the Healthcare Sector, Steve brings a wealth of experience and demonstrated success is all aspects of Business Development, Sales, and Operations.

Rachael Akin is the Brand Czar & Co-Founder at Benchmark Brewing Company in San Diego.  She is a fifth generation San Diegan, who attended the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, and holds a BS in Interior Design from the Art Institute of San Diego. Rachael worked for several years in theater design and management, beginning her car rear at the Starlight Bowl. She later transitioned to commercial interior design and graphics where she focused on patient experience and brand identity for large healthcare facilities, specializing in children’s hospitals. She currently holds the office of secretary of the San Diego Brewers Guild, and sits on the board for Save Starlight.

Ed Hollingsworth is an actor and a retired teacher.  He appeared in 35 productions at Starlight, starting in 1980. His wife and all four of his kids have performed at Starlight.  He met his wife on the lawn by the back parking lot of Starlight on September 2, 1982.  He proposed to her in the same spot one year later. Starlight is a major part of his life.

Iovanka Todt  is a Senior Management Analyst in the Performance & Analytics Department. She supports efficiency and effectiveness efforts led by the Performance & Analytics Department, which she joined in September of 2013. Before that, she served 10 years as executive director in the non-profit sector working with agencies, the private sector, interest groups, and academia to improve state and federal policy for water, environment, and public safety. Her past experience also includes over 10 years of experience in: project management services for civil and environmental engineering public projects; program development and management in government grants acquisition for infrastructure projects, public involvement, inter-agency collaboration, education, outreach, and volunteer coordination; and management consulting services in the defense sector.

Iovanka graduated from Princeton University with a combined degree in civil engineering and operations research with a concentration in engineering management and is certified as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt through UC San Diego Extension.



Welton Jones has been involved with San Diego arts and entertainment since 1966, as a theatre and music critic for The San Diego Union-Tribune; as a playwright, director and producer at many venues; and as an activist for innumerable cultural projects.

Diana Cantu is an international business development executive with extensive experience in the intersection of technology and the arts/humanities. Currently she’s a consultant specializing telecommunications, broadcast, and multimedia distribution infrastructure. She also has served/currently serves in leadership capacity on boards for nonprofit arts organizations.

Stephanie Sherman is an art director, public curator, and social designer who creates collaborative systems by transforming underutilized spaces and surplus resources. She co-founded Elsewhere--a living museum and artist residency set in a former thrift store that helped to revitalize Greensboro, NC, and is currently the co-director of Common Field, a new national arts organizing network. She has worked as a collaborator and cultural consultant with Materials & Applications (LA), Sensible Recovery (NY), DesignLab (San Diego), Provisions Library (DC) Rebuild Foundation (Chicago), Kulturpark (Berlin), Save Starlight (San Diego), Merz Barn (UK), Forecast Public Art (MN), RadioEE (Miami) and Port-to-Port (international). Her projects have been supported by the Warhol Foundation, Kresge Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and ArtPlace America. She holds a BA from University of Pennsylvania in 20th C. Literature, an MA from Duke in Critical Theory+Visual Culture, and is currently working on a Phd in Art+Design at UCSD. She believes there is an art to everything. http://stephaniesherman.net


Chair of the development committee

Jennifer Crespo graduated from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts and also is a San Diego State University alumni. She has worked as a performer at Disneyland and Sea World. At the YMCA, she served as site supervisor and Specialty Camp Coordinator for the La Jolla location. As an instructor to the School For Creative Careers she has been involved as a coordinator to after school programs. Jen performs regularly along with her husband Marc Crespo on the mainstage of San Diego National Comedy Theater.

creative and Communications manager

Diana Benavidez  is a Visual Artist and Undergraduate Researcher for UC San Diego's The DesignLab Creative. She has previously been involved as Executive Production Assistant for Parkeology and Design Forward. Her work as a Visual Artist adopts the Mexican craft of piñata making as a medium to create sculptures that involve the absurd-like exaggeration of mass-produced objects, which plays off on both the viewers intimate knowledge of, and their shared relationship to taken-for-granted objects. Her sculptures are also a reflection of the artist’s own hybrid identity as a Mexican-American growing up near the San Diego/Tijuana border where the language of commodification and the culture of conspicuous consumption transcends both sides of the border. Works have been exhibited in a variety of spaces that include UC San Diego’s Adam D. Kamil Gallery and The Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. http://www.dbenavidez.com/

Community Outreach manager

Jamie McGuffee is a creative spirit connected with The School For Creative Careers and many other performance art entities. McGuffee has been involved with School for Creative Careers since 2014. As an instructor she has helped to create and teach seminars for students about music and live production. She has worked for over 60 music festivals and events across the country. She is able to combine her passion and skills for preforming arts, by creating events  and  through these skills she aims to develop a Save Starlight community. McGuffee is currently part of the outreach team for the campaign.



Janelle Woodard  Graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) achieving a B.A. in Communications with an emphasis in Business Marketing and a Minor in Fine Art History while interning with the American Federation of The Arts (The AFA) in New York City.  Upon graduating and returning to California she was a Media Account Executive for Honda through Rubin Postaer and Associates.  Her career then led to the Five-Star resort, Stein Ericksen Lodge where she was the Sales and Marketing Manager and Corporate Event Planner.    She then secured the role of  International Sales Manager for the Park City Chamber allowing her to travel abroad marketing the area and the Olympics Games.  In 2015 she founded the North County chapter of the Non-profit Teen Volunteers in Action (TVIA).  Where she currently is the Founder /President of the Board and is the spokesperson for the Chapter's 120 members.  

Sierra Poppleton graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho with her B.A. in Photography (www.sierrapoppleton.com). She is the founder of BYU-Idaho’s Last Voice Standing and has served as the director of their dance and sports program. She has a passion for theatre, dance, sports, business and plans to return to school to get her M.B.A. in the future. 

Glenna Trone has experience in both photography and videography with a background in theatre. She first became involved with Americas Finest Sound as technical support in 2014. Soon, she expanded her skills in media through the School For Creative Careers. Her enthusiasm for media production continues to grow through her involvement with Save Starlight.  

Alan Ames from Ames Universal is an Internationally acclaimed Award-Winning media production and consulting firm specializing in live event production, internet broadcasting, animation, post-production and distribution. With over thirty years of professional entertainment industry experience. 

Debbie Glivar Roberts  is an award winning musical theatre expert with more than four decades of experience. Recognized as a gifted soprano vocalist she has appeared in more than 150 musical productions, concerts, television specials and recordings throughout the United States and Europe.  Debbie studied classical and Broadway voice with two of New York's finest vocal coaches, Felix Knight and Marni Nixon.  As a musical and vocal director, conductor and musician, Debbie has worked with students of all grade levels and ages.  Her passion for inspiring and teaching children has lead her to become one of San Diego's most highly sought after voice and audition coaches.

Bill Biersach senior lecturer at USC Thornton, studied electronic music at USC under current faculty member Frederick Lesemann. He taught beginning and advanced Synthesizer Techniques classes from 1975 to 2009, and assisted Richard McIlvery in revamping and expanding the Recording Arts Workshop program, which later became the Music Industry program, from 1984 through 2003.

John Bolthouse is the executive director of the Friends of Balboa Park  .  He graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe with a degree in air transportation and aviation sciences and a master’s in nonprofit leadership and management from the University of San Diego.

Rita Cartwright Cantos first took the stage when she was 14 — Starlight Opera put her in a production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” She’s been “addicted” to being up there ever since, although she’s done some writing and teaching (in human rights and women’s issues) along the way.

Ed Witt a local business owner at Witt Lincoln is dedicated to making the community a better place for all. He has committed much of his time towards helping the less fortunate in our local community. Currently, Ed Witt is the Chairman of the Board at Father Joe's Villages and is proud to support this communities children by sponsoring the Father Joe's Children's Charity Gala. His passion for helping the community has led to his recent involvement with Save Starlight as an adviser. 

Alexandra Germon is a real estate agent and former radio personality whose show supported small businesses on a local AM 1170 radio. She is passionate about causes that change people's lives. Alexandra devotes her time to helping Save Starlight to be recognized as pillars of San Diego's community.

Dan Woodard is an alumnus of UC San Diego and received his Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 1986. He’s been an attorney in private practice since then. In addition to nearly 30 years in estate planning and litigation practice, he’s mediated nearly 1000 disputes. He was honored by the Los Angeles Superior Court as the Probate mediator of the year in 2010, 2011, and 2012. He has been a member of numerous Boards of Directors and been counsel to multiple non-profit organizations over the past 25 years.



Donations are tax-deductible and will be used towards our campaign operating costs.

Your generous gift will make a meaningful difference in reaching our goal; saving and preserving the iconic Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park. 

Contact us 

General Info: info@savestarlight.org // 619.252.1744

Steve Stopper (Production): sstopper@savestarlight.org

Jennifer Crespo (Development) development@savestarlight.org

Jamie McGuffee ( Outreach): outreach@savestarlight.org




See Press Releases and Press Archives here.

June 9, 2016 - The San Diego Reader                                                     June 9, 2016 - Voice of San Diego - Culture Report

June 22, 2016 - Save Starlight Press

June 26, 2016 - Beautiful Balboa Park

June 29, 2016 - 600 KOGO News Radio

July 9, 2016 - Presidio Sentinel

July 29, 2016 - Broadwayworld.com

August  9, 2016 - The San Diego Union-Tribune

August 10, 2016 - KPBS

August 10, 2016 - The November Project

August 11, 2016 - CW6 News

August 11, 2016 - SanDiegoNewsinfo.com

August 13, 2016 - The San Diego Union - Tribune

August 13, 2016 - The Los Angeles Times

August 13, 2016 - NBC San Diego

 August, 13 2016 - Fox 5 San Diego

September 7, 2016 - Write Out Loud

December 27, 2016 - VOICE OF SAN DIEGO- Staff Picks

January 3, 2917 - VOICE OF SAN DIEGO

April 19, 2017 -  Balboa Park LEEDing on sustainability

April 21, 2017 -  The Committee of One Hundred  

June 1, 2017 - Balboa Park dreaming — ah, but there's the retro-fitting   

August 20, 2017  -  UT-San Diego / Starlight Bowl may see new life yet

September 18, 2017 - Committee of One Hundred Fall Newsletter

October 6, 2017- Maker Faire returns to Balboa Park

October 23, 2017  - Tom Petty-signed guitar could be source of lasting San Diego legacy

November 6, 2017  - KUSI Good Morning San Diego 

November 7, 2017 -  CBS Channel 8 San Diego

November 8, 2017 - NBC SoundDiego

December 3, 2017 - Balboa Park's 'ugly stepsister' is looking for a makeover

March 9, 2018 - Jeff Zevely Zone




Save starlight NEWSLETTERS

January 18, 2017       2017 The Year Starlight Bowl Reopened

February 15, 2017    Old Venue, New Vision

March 15, 2017          Activating The Site, Building a Future 

April 12, 2017              A community Treasure 

May 10, 2017               Balboa Park's Open Air Theater

June 14, 2017               San Diego's Heritage in the Arts

July 12, 2017                 A Civic Gem

August 16, 2017          Summer Updates

September 27, 2017 Starlight Bowl may see new life yet 

October 26, 2017       A Dark Corner of the Park is Beautifully Lit Now 

January 10, 2018 A Community's resolution for 2018

February 14, 2018 Love Stories from Starlight Bowl

March 21, 2018   21 Days to Reach our Goal