Dan Kryston had a million children in this town

Dan Kryston came into my life around 1999 or 2000, or I should say, I came into his, as he was at that time the co-owner of Piaf’s, a cabaret and restaurant in the San Francisco neighborhood that is still today the hub of the SF cabaret community. I don’t remember exactly the first time I met him. I think I was a little awed by him, as I am in a certain way by all club owners.

Through the years our lives kept touching each other, first through the environment of his club, but then through the arts education community, when he surprised those of us who didn’t know a lot about him, and popped up at San Francisco’s School of the Arts, where he touched many lives through one of his most significant contributions, the gradual creation of a Musical Theatre Dept., for which he worked tirelessly.

Exactly a week ago today I was observing in the vocal studio of a colleague with whom I became friends thanks to Dan. Several years ago, Dan produced a cross-generational concert version of Follies, inviting several singers he knew from the Piaf’s days to participate. Barry Lloyd was the musical director; Barry and I had performed several times at Piaf’s together –- New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, The Cabaret Competition — and those occasions are still pretty vivid in my mind. In the production of Follies, I met Shannon Day, a singer and teacher whom I admire a great deal. I don’t remember, but I think she was heroically filling in for someone who could not do the show, but she was the vocal teacher of many of the talented SOTA high school students who also took part in the production, and she was excellent. We’ve been friends ever since; performing together, discovering other ties in the music and education communities that connect us.

It was at Shannon’s studio last Thursday that I heard of the passing of Dan Kryston. The bittersweet tang of tears comes up as I write of the ironic timing. Dan had for years been working to establish a Musical Theatre Dept. at SOTA, and had just succeeded, brimming with enthusiasm to go forward. The last time I saw him was this past spring at an AMAZING student production of Seussical. At intermission he was selling sponsorship of chairs – chairs that would be occupying the SOTA theater when the renovation was done. I hear it has just been completed.

Why, in this moment, did he pass, from pneumonia of all things, and in a hospital? I can’t fathom this.

Dan Kryston had a million children in this town. His artistic children; people whose lives Dan touched and who hold his legacy within them: Striving musical and cabaret performers, students and families at SOTA, and his numerous colleagues, so many. Lots of offspring.

I invite you to post pictures and make comments, to forward this blog, so on.

I would also welcome any info on how to contact his sister, who used to own Piaf’s with him, to pay my respects.

Thanks, Dan, from all of us.

Lua Hadar

San Francisco


Here’s a posting for reference that I found:



8 responses to “Dan Kryston had a million children in this town

  1. Thank you for your beautiful rememberance of Dan, Lua. Dan was one of those amazingly tireless educators — always striving for the best for his students…his offspring. We will remember him well.

  2. I taught at St. Peter’s in the Mission District with Dan many years ago. We all thought he was crazy – in the best possible way. He gave all of himself to the student productions and behaved as though giving one’s all was the only possible way to teach. He was incredibly dedicated and this is a truly shocking and tragic loss for his students. The mayor’s office has some way of recognizing great teachers – maybe it would be a comfort to Dan’s community and his sister if we could somehow find a way to have Dan’s dedication and creativity recognized.
    You will be missed, Dan. Thank you for the inspiration you gave to so many kids.

  3. Hello Lua,
    I don’t know if anyone has gotten back to you, but Karen Kryston’s # is: 916-873-7812. I’ve known Dan since 1976, but had not been in touch with him for the last few years. I talked to Karen last week and she’s pretty broken up. I bet she would appreciate a call.


  4. you can contact Susan Stauter at SOTA, she can get you in contact with Karen. We had a memorial today driven by the students at SOTA.

    Sota family

  5. Thank you for your responses, friends, for Karen’s phone number, and for the info on the Memorial for Dan, which came from another SOTA parent (Caroline G):

    Dan’s sister, Karen, has arranged for a mass to be given in his honor on Saturday, March 12, at St. Dominic’s Church at 1:30 PM.

    Please feel free to forward this blog to others for photos or other memorial comments for a man who literally gave his life for his students.

  6. A note from Antigone Trimis (San Francisco School District Arts Master Plan Implementation Manager) to the Arts Education Community:

    Carmelo Sgarlato, Susan Stauter, Rob Daniels, and I would also like to make you aware of a huge loss to the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts and the SFUSD Arts Education community. Dan Kryston, a beloved teacher at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts and a bright light, passed away on Wednesday, February 9, 2011. Dan Kryston, who will be remembered in the San Francisco area for directing many highly acclaimed musical theatre productions at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, including a ground-breaking production of the musical Seussical – that incorporated circus technique – was indeed a master teacher of both design and the performing arts. Dan Kryston served as the founding department chair of the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts Musical Theatre Department in addition to running the Department of Theatre Design & Technology. Previous to teaching, directing and designing for the theatre at the high school level, he taught middle school English, and had also worked professionally in the theatre designing and directing productions involving actors of all ages. His work was consistently heralded as being innovative and excellent and he and his students were graced with numerous awards for excellence.

  7. Beautiful to read all thoses comments about Dan, and special thanks to Lua for her emotional writting. I was discover by Dan in July 1998 wile I was singing a tour de force of Piaf songs @ Martuni’s in S.F. Dan invite me to come and have dinner at Piaf Restaurant. I did sing that nigth during my dinner with him, he engage me that nigth at Piaf for every wednesday in September. One day he toll me something unusual in my carier, “stay with me, I will make you fameus. How nice to ear something like that. But, he did! He take me for 4 years to play for the San Francisco Golden Gate film festival, and many other Festival in the City and in the Bay area, I perform at Piaf every thursday and Saturday for 3 and the half years, I meet and play for the Mayor, in S.F. and Oakland, and more! He did love me, and love my music with respect. He never did stop to be my friend, and in 2007, he show up in one of my concert with my trio at Octavia Lounge, and offered me a Piaf-recital at SOTA. My dream was finally get througth, I sings all Piaf program in a real Theater with a Grand piano, and great two musicians, ligth and Microphones, and set of beautiful colors. Thank you Dan, for all this.

  8. Octavio Herrera

    I was only a child, when I met Dan. He was my eighth grade teacher at St. Peter’s school, in the heart of the Mission District. The year was 94-95, and I recall, an awesome pink platform in the class room, where all his students were delighted to a new scene of dramatics. I want to remember Dan, also known to his student’s back then as, Mr. Kryston. He produced the big hit, 100 Years of Broadway!!!!
    A musical, where all who joined, gave their heart and souls to making this a phenomenal event, and worth reminiscing. Dan, believed in me, and gave me the best recommendation while entering High School. Now, as a grown adult, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to excel, love dramatics and especially life. You truly will be missed! Now your star will shine much brighter- because your light will shine eternally. With all respect, and deepest sympathy to all Dan’s family and Loved one’s.
    ~Octavio Herrera, San Francisco CA

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