From speakers to dance, Mondavi Center offers variety of events

If you are looking for a wide range of events, from speakers to music to dance, the Mondavi Center on the UC Davis campus is the place to go.

The hall, created in the vision of late chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, will celebrate its 15th anniversary in October.

“I think Larry’s concept for the Mondavi Center was not about students in particular, but anybody who engages with the university, having a well-rounded experience,” associate executive director Jeremy Ganter said. “We are of course known for agriculture and sciences and veterinary medicine and wine-making, but he really wanted the arts to be elevated to that same level … and that was really at the top level of his vision of the Mondavi Center.”

The Mondavi Center features two venues. Jackson Hall, the bigger concert hall, hosts most of the orchestras, including the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra. The Vanderhoef Studio Theatre is the smaller addition that hosts some theater along with smaller groups such as quartets.

“If there are two real edges that the Mondavi Center has, beyond just the programming that we do … our faculty and our graduate students that can put context around performances like nobody else can,” Ganter said. “So it helps us to take bigger risks with programming and to go further out there with our programming because we have the ability to put an enormous amount of intellectual context and rigor around what we do.”

Five things to know

It starts with art – According to Rob Tocalino, Mondavi’s director of marketing, “the building structure that holds our ticket office is egg-shaped, which references the Robert Arneson ‘Egghead’ sculptures found throughout the UC Davis campus.” Arneson was an artist and a professor at the school. His seven sculptures, scattered around the campus, are meant to make statements about society, academics and politics.

They had to silence the freeway – The center is very close to I-80, so architects needed to make sure the hall would be soundproof. “The center is based on double-wall construction,” Tocalino explained. “Two feet of air space separate the inner and outer walls. Likewise, there is a basement under Jackson Hall, and a technical attic at the ceiling. This creates a ‘box within a box’ for the desired acoustical isolation of the hall.”

There’s imported wood throughout – The Douglas fir used for the paneling, furniture and cabinets came from the bottom of Ruby Lake in the western part of British Columbia and was used to help improve the center’s acoustics.

The name of the building is famous – Robert Mondavi is best known as an innovator in the wine industry in the Napa Valley region. And the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Sciences is nearby, also on the UC Davis campus. The donation for these two centers is the largest private contribution to the university, according to its website.

It gives students a quiet study area – The Mondavi’s lobbies have become popular for studying. Apparently, a mix of classical music and a food truck outside provides the perfect environment when cramming for finals.

Mondavi Center at a glance


  • Los Tigres del Norte, Thursday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m.: The San Jose-based group is one of the most famous Norteño bands in the world, with ballads that describe life, love and the struggle to survive along the Mexico-United States border. The group has six Grammys, six Latin Grammys – and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • Dorrance Dance, Sunday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m.: Dorrance Dance, founded in 2011 by MacArthur Award recipient and artistic director Michelle Dorrance, honors tap through furious rhythms and adventurous choreography.
  • American Bach Soloists, Sunday, Dec. 17, 4 p.m.: The highlight for the holidays is their signature rendition of Handel’s Baroque masterpiece, Messiah.