New Mormon Tabernacle Choir president aspires to young adult playlists

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

Ron Jarrett, the new president of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, speaks about his challenging new position in his office Tuesday.

Joseph Walker

Ron and Lucie Jarrett were 13 months into what was supposed to be a 23-month mission in Europe for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when the phone rang with a call that changed their lives.

On the other end of the line: LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson.

“He called me to serve as the president of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” Jarrett recalled. “I was stunned.”

Not that working with the world-renowned choir was unfamiliar territory for Jarrett. He sang in the choir from 1999 until 2008, and then served as an assistant to former choir president Mac Christensen from 2008 until May 2011. But when he and his wife accepted a call to serve a public affairs mission for the church in Europe, assigned to the area office in Frankfurt, Germany, he felt his official association with the choir was over.

“I had not planned on this,” he said while seated in his comfortable new office in the lower level of the Salt Lake LDS Tabernacle. “I thought I had reached the end of the Tabernacle Choir chapter of my life. But now it looks like we’re taking that chapter and turning it into a book.”

Still, it was difficult to leave Germany, where he and Lucie were enjoying the public affairs training they were doing in 10 different countries.

“Being there was just wonderful,” Jarrett said. “It was a dream come true for Lucie and I. But when the prophet calls, you do it.”

It helped that President Monson understood what he was asking.

“President Monson was very sympathetic,” Jarrett said. “He said, ‘I know how hard it is to leave Germany. Just ask President Uchtdorf.’ ”

The church president was referring to his counselor in the LDS First Presidency, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who lived most of his life in Germany prior to his call to full-time church service.

For Jarrett, the call to replace Christensen, who retired as choir president in August, elicited three very specific — and very different — responses.

“My first feeling was shock,” he said. “Then I felt gratitude for the opportunity. And then I felt the weight of the assignment. Having served with President Christensen, I had some idea of what I was being asked to do.”

He glanced around the office and smiled. “Of course, I only knew a small part of what President Christensen actually did as choir president,” he said. “Now I appreciate his great work even more.”

The Jarretts returned to Salt Lake City from their European mission 10 months early, in time for Jarrett to assume his new duties in August. Technically, he is a volunteer, which means he doesn’t get paid for the time he invests in overseeing choir activities. But he works long days planning and strategizing choir tours and performances, dealing with choir business issues and attending rehearsals and broadcasts.

“Lucie and I went from being full-time companions to being no-time companions almost overnight,” he said, chuckling. But he said his wife and three children have been “extremely supportive” of his new assignment, even though “it does take time away from the family.”

A retired elementary school teacher and principal, Jarrett is the first former choir member to serve as choir president, a role that has traditionally been held by men with a business background. With his typical optimism, he sees his past involvement as a choir member as an advantage.

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