Kettering’s summer soundtrack

After 23 years, Fraze Pavilion continues to impress

By Leo DeLuca

Photo: The Turtles featuring Flo and Eddie will perform as part of the Happy Together tour at Fraze Pavilion on Aug. 6, 2014

Wind whistles low, visiting the tops of trees, as the sun sinks off in the horizon. Concertgoers gather near and far, seeking to be entertained, seeking a spell of respite. They dance and clap and laugh in the lawn, enjoying the halcyon days of summer; high-caliber music echoes in a community less than a half-century old. These are the sights and sounds of Fraze Pavilion.

Opening in September 1991, Fraze Pavilion materialized through a substantial donation by the family of Ermal Cleon Fraze – a celebrated Dayton native and inventor of the pop-top. As patrons seek refreshment, the hiss and pop of Fraze’s brainchild reverberates off concession stand walls. Here in Dayton, Ohio, Fraze helped create the soundtrack to summer in more ways than one.

Dayton City Paper had the opportunity to catch up with Fraze Pavilion General Manager Karen Durham about the past, present and future of Dayton’s long-loved concert venue.

How did Fraze Pavilion begin? Who originally had the idea? Who was the first act to play at Fraze? 

The idea for the facility was conceived during a long-term planning session as the City of Kettering was celebrating its 25th year of incorporation. A group set out to raise funds to build a facility with private donations, and the family of Ermal Fraze made the contribution that sent the fund-raising goal over the top, and hence the venue bears his name. We owe the family a tremendous thank-you for their vision and support of the facility. Marvin Hamlisch was the first artist featured at Fraze.

– Karen Durham

How has Fraze been impacted by the ebbs and flows of Dayton’s economy? 

We’ve been very fortunate that despite the rocky times within the Miami Valley region, people have still chosen to spend both time and money at Fraze. We were also able to consciously react to the economic times and programmed additional free or “low ticket” cost events to keep the venue active during those tough years. The last few years have seen terrific growth, not only in ticket sales, but also in the types of national acts we have brought to Kettering. – KD

Why do you think people go to Fraze? What’s the allure?

There are a lot of reasons people make the choice to come to Fraze. We truly offer something for every musical taste. We offer many different types of music at a very fair, competitive price. Free festivals, $2 and $5 events appeal to audiences of all ages. We get comments all the time from first-time guests; they love the park, the setting, the cleanliness of the venue and, with multiple parking options around the facility, getting to and from the show is relatively easy. We’ve offered some of the biggest names in entertainment throughout our history. In such a small, intimate environment, these concerts are very up-close and personal. – KD

Who are some of the most notable performers you’ve had at Fraze over the venue’s history?

We’ve had a who’s who in the music industry on the Fraze stage — most recently, a Beatle: Ringo Starr. Through the years, we’ve hosted performances by Santana, Josh Groban, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Steely Dan, Bonnie Raitt, Barry Manilow, Earth, Wind & Fire, Faith Hill, Crosby, Stills & Nash, B.B. King and many, many more.

We’re also proud to say over the last few years we’ve presented some of the biggest names currently in the music industry: Luke Perry, Michael Buble, Lady Antebellum, John Mayer, Norah Jones, The Band Perry and Florida Georgia Line.

The venue’s capacity is just under 4,400 and split about 50/50 between reserved seating and general admission seating in the lawn and the bleachers. – KD

What are your plans for the venue going forward? 

In 2013, we made some improvements to an area in front of our concession building; this year we enclosed a patio area in order to give us much needed product storage and workspace, along with upgrading our sound pit area for ease of artist use. We are looking at lighting improvements and fountain upgrades, along with a new patio/VIP area in the future. -KD

Anything else you’d like to add? 

When we have the opportunity, we always want to thank the people of the Miami Valley and beyond who have supported us for the past 23 seasons! Their support and loyalty to the musicians on stage is what keeps these artists coming back year after year. We can’t do this without community businesses, the City of Kettering’s leadership and the great Fraze team members. They all make the music come alive night after night! -KD

Fraze Pavilion is located at 695 Lincoln Park Boulevard. For an updated schedule, tickets and more information, please visit

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