Big-Rig Mishap Spoils Mondavi Center’s Opening Night

Quick Summary

  • Trailer carrying music, instruments gets stuck on traffic circle
  • Audience of 1,100-plus had gathered, musicians were ready
  • Mondavi Center Executive Director Don Roth sends apology

The San Francisco Symphony’s Thursday night concert (Oct. 6) at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts hit a bump in the road — make that a circle in the road — forcing the Mondavi Center to call off the performance.

The night had started out on a festive note: The same symphony that performed on the Mondavi Center’s first opening night in 2002 was back to play on opening night of the 20th anniversary season.

An audience of more than 1,100 had gathered. The musicians were in the house. But there was one big problem: The Mondavi Center had learned at about 6 p.m. that a tractor-trailer rig carrying the symphony’s sheet music and many of the orchestra’s larger instruments had become stuck on a traffic circle near the South Silo.

Tractor-trailer rig stuck on traffic circle
Trailer carrying the San Francisco Symphony’s sheet music and many of the orchestra’s larger instruments, stuck on a traffic circle southeast of the South Silo and the “Stone Poem” sculpture, Thursday (Oct. 6). (Chris Oca/UC Davis)

The mishap required a specialized tow truck, which arrived at about 7, according to Rob Tocalino, marketing director for the Mondavi Center.

“We were exploring other options (borrowing instruments from the music department to buy us some time), but the concert wasn’t viable without the truck being at the MC,” he said.

Decision to cancel

The tow truck freed the symphony truck at 7:30, which was the scheduled starting time for the concert.

At that point, getting the instruments to the venue, unloading and prepping for the show would have put us at a 9 p.m. start time,” Tocalino said.


The Mondavi Center will host two other symphonies in October:

So Don Roth, the center’s executive director, stood atop a bench in the lobby to announce the cancellation.

The crowd received the news calmly, Tocalino said. “Many folks left, many stayed to enjoy a beverage,” he said. “It was an understanding vibe, although certainly you could feel the collective disappointment.

Roth sent an email to ticket holders Thursday night, advising that refunds would be going out and that the center would try to arrange parking refunds as well from the ParkMobile system.

He sent another email today: “I wanted to reach out personally to you to apologize for any disappointment, inconvenience or unhappiness you experienced as a result of this unfortunate cancellation.

‘Always a last resort’

Don Roth headshot, UC Davis
Don Roth

“I particularly regret that I wasn’t able to communicate to you earlier than the announcement I made in the lobby shortly before the curtain was to rise. I had been backstage up to that very moment conferring with the orchestra team and our team to find some solution that would allow the show to go on.

“But the stuck truck, with essential instruments and music inside, was in such a position that it could not be unloaded safely or quickly enough for the show to commence. Canceling a performance is always a last resort but this situation was beyond any reasonable resolution.”

Tocalino said he does not know how the driver ended up near the Silo complex but planned to investigate whether a GPS-enabled map app had given bad directions, “so we can make sure this does not happen again.”

Media Resources

Dateline Staff: Dave Jones, editor, 530-752-6556,; Cody Kitaura, News and Media Relations specialist, 530-752-1932,

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