Ron Jarrett: Looking Back on 5 Years as Choir President
It is one thing to be a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and be able to sing each week. It’s another to be the president of the massive 700-plus volunteer musical organization that includes the Choir, Orchestra at Temple Square, Bells on Temple Square, Temple Square Chorale, staff, guest organists, and a large group of volunteers. Ron Jarrett has done both. He is the first Choir president to have been a singing member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir prior to his call as president.
In the summer of 2012 Jarrett was serving with his wife, Lucie, on a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Frankfurt, Germany. He received a phone call from Church President Thomas S. Monson that would change his life. It was a phone call he hadn’t expected. Jarrett was stunned to be asked to return home to become the president of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir organization.
Jarrett was a first tenor in the Choir from 1999 to 2008 and had served as an assistant to former president Mac Christensen before his call to full-time missionary service in Germany. Professionally, he had been an educator and served as a public school principal for 22 years. He was also an experienced Church leader in his local LDS congregations. This call to serve as the Choir president was unexpected. Even today Jarrett will tell you that he is not sure yet why he was the one who was called. He loves the assignment and he is doing everything he can to continue the great work of the Choir, to see that things run smoothly, and to bring new experiences to the Choir organization.
President Jarrett recently responded to some interview questions about his five years of service as the Choir organization president:
Question: What is different about serving as the Choir president?
President Jarrett: When you are a singer, you know what you are to sing, when to show up, and what to wear. As an assistant to President Christensen, I was introduced to more of the administrative functions of planning, preparing, and producing programs—but didn’t have specific responsibilities for those roles. When I returned as the Choir president—a volunteer Church position—I became responsible for managing the operations, employees, marketing, and overseeing the administrative components of the Choir, including the supervision of over 700 volunteers in the Choir organization.
As the president, I’ve come to learn more about our wonderful volunteer members who, in addition to their musical responsibilities, carry a variety of challenges in their personal and professional lives. Because my professional career as an administrator in the school system taught me to listen to others, I’ve tried to listen when members express what their needs and concerns are and help look for possible solutions.
Question: What has surprised you in this position?
President Jarrett: I have been surprised by the “exactness” required in everything the Choir does. We don’t just say, “Let’s see how this rolls out.” We plan everything—exactly. We know what we are going to do. We know what we are going to perform. We know how many minutes it’s going to take. We plan times, programs, locations, cameras, travel—everything we do, we do with exactness. There isn’t anything left to chance in our planning.
Question: Do you have any special experiences or thoughts about your role as Choir president?
President Jarrett: I have had a lot of great experiences these past five years. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people, people I would have never met in my normal life. Associating these past five years with the First Presidency of the Church—President Monson, President Uchtdorf, and President Eyring—these are men that I respect and reverence. Together, we have been able to discuss and speak about Choir and our goals for the future.
I have also come to know the wonderful Choir organization members. When I was in the Choir I kept thinking, “I know these Choir members. If I required help, they would come to my rescue.” As a Choir member, you become closest to those who sing around you, but as president, I have come to know all the Choir members. I know they all have their own challenges, but I have found a friendship with all of them.
Question: What are your goals for the future?
President Jarrett: I need to stay the course and keep moving the Choir forward. I need to do what I set out to do and continue to do it in positive and appropriate ways. I wanted to take the Choir on an international concert tour, and we were able to do that in 2016. I believe there are other places in the world that we need to go, other people we need to reach with our music.
I want to expand our audience and increase our digital presence. We have to keep changing, growing, improving, and putting out quality material. We have in the past relied on sale of our physical products to support our work, but we know the world is using digital media to purchase and download their music to have it accessible everywhere they go.
To illustrate how technology for the Choir has changed during these past years, President Jarrett—with a smile—related his recent experience of traveling back to Salt Lake City with members of the Bells on Temple Square after their performance at the Handbell Musicians of America national seminar in California. As they waited for their flight home that Sunday morning, they all sat together watching Music and the Spoken Word on their phones through the Choir’s social media channels.
It has been an exciting five years for the Choir organization and for President Jarrett. With over 75 performances each year, recording sessions, twice-weekly rehearsals, and much more, the Choir has continued to grow and expand its in-person, digital, and broadcast presence throughout the world. A look forward to the next five years brings anticipation of new music to perform, new recordings to make, and new audiences to reach.