Aside from the superb performers you can find at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre nearly every weekend, the Amphitheatre is one of the most beautifully designed concert venues in the region. Embedded deep in the lush Florida landscape, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre seamlessly blends manmade structures into its forested surroundings.
Ryan Murphy is the general manager at the Amphitheatre and the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. After spending roughly 15 years in Gainesville working at a record label, touring in bands, booking shows and helping with festivals, he got the opportunity to come work at the Amphitheatre, where he has worked for the last four years.
Murphy recently took the time to discuss with us a little about where the Amphitheatre has been, and where it’ll be in the future.
Q: How does the Amphitheatre go about buying talent and choosing artists for shows?
A: I work with a variety of promoters as well as do a lot in-house (work) to keep it interesting and balanced. One thing that I feel is always needed here, and everywhere, is a great deal of variety, especially a variety of artists and events that speak to a certain level of quality. The first couple years I was here, it was more of a struggle to get St. Augustine on the radar of most the major artists and agents, but once the momentum got going and we were able to convince them on how amazing this place it, it really cracked wide open. Between the artists we have been bringing to the Amphitheatre and the Concert Hall, and the Mumford & Sons event we did, it really elevated the area in the eyes of the industry. St. Augustine quickly became a “must” tour stop.
Q: What goes into a typical day of work for a concert? Everything from the setting up the show to the end.
A: I think that one thing that most people don’t realize is how much goes into one single event. When our staff is involved and working on about 85 to 100 events a year, it’s pretty crazy. Every single show, tour, setup, etc., is different and the days always start extremely early for the load-in/setup and go very late for the breakdown/load-out. Everything is planned to be down to the minute. This goes all the way from when the stage is being chalked/plotted, to when the meals are set, to when security arrives, to when the gates open, to when the ushers take their place, etc. Everything is pretty much rolling along on the presumption that there will be no hiccups or problems that derail the event. I am fortunate to work with an amazing group of forward-thinking people who have a knack for problem-solving. It is rare that we run into a situation the day of show that is insurmountable.
Q: When the Amphitheatre was redesigned in 2008, what were people’s initial reactions like? Since then, what other redesigns have been done?
A: That was a little before my time here, but from what I’ve gathered, the community really got behind it and were excited. The design of the Amphitheatre is beautiful, and the amount of thought that went into it was impressive. I feel extremely lucky to work at such a beautifully designed facility. The place was really redesigned with a huge amount of potential and I think that’s exactly what was tapped into, and what we continue to embrace and grow. The hard part of the job is getting the artist to the venue, but once they are here, they fall in love and they spread the word.
Q: What’s in the future for the Amphitheatre? How do you guys stay current?
A: The sky’s the limit for us, and we are really excited about the momentum we have. We really like to fully embrace and create events that are appropriate for the community in which we live. St. Augustine is so unique in the way that it preserves, respects and embraces the past, while putting a new and thoughtful spin on things. We like to stay in touch with this and help move the community in a forward direction. We stay current by really bringing the best music we can possibly think of that the people of St. Augustine need to hear.
Q: Can you give our readers any insight into some upcoming music for the next few months/year?
A: This year is going to be huge for us and I’m really happy how it’s shaping up. We will be doing a ton of stuff at the Amphitheatre and Concert Hall as always, but also working on some really unique and cool festivals in downtown St. Augustine that I think people are going to be really excited about. I will have to say that Northeast Florida is finally getting some attention and we are bringing some really amazing artists here. This is really due to the fact that there are great, honest, progressive people putting together events and an audience that is giving some seriously enthusiastic response.