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La Jolla Music Society names veteran arts executive as its new president and CEO

Todd Schultz is the new president and chief executive of the La Jolla Music Society.
Todd Schultz, the new president and chief executive of the La Jolla Music Society, stands inside the Baker-Baum Concert Hall at the society’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.
(Ariana Drehsler)

Todd Schultz, a veteran of the San Diego Symphony, Old Globe and San Diego Opera, will be the society’s fourth top leader since 2018.

The La Jolla Music Society hardly needed to look beyond its own backyard to find Todd Schultz, the new president and chief executive of the 52-year-old arts organization.

Schultz, 54, has spent the past year as senior vice president of development for the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert. Before that, he was the San Diego Symphony’s vice president of institutional advancement from 2015 to 2019, the Old Globe’s director of development from 2004 to 2015 and the San Diego Opera’s director of marketing and public relations from 1994 to 2000.

“I know what La Jolla Music Society has achieved and what its strengths are, and I’m very excited,” Schultz said.

“The repertoire the society presents — be it classical, jazz, Broadway, dance, Latin music or any other genre — is open to anyone who responds to it, and our goal is to ensure that the society is a resource for everyone in the region.”

Schultz will begin his new job Jan. 4 and has signed an initial three-year contract. His salary has not been disclosed.

He will be the fourth person to head the society since January 2018, following the sudden departures of his three immediate predecessors — one of whom bowed out before her tenure was set to begin.

His departure comes more than three months earlier than anticipated, and less than a year after he assumed his position here

“Todd has been on our horizon for a long, long time,” said La Jolla Music Society board Chairman Steve Baum.

“We looked at a variety of candidates at other arts organizations and selected Todd, who — fortunately — is able to come work for us. He loves music. He knows the arts in San Diego, he knows the community and he has a house here. So he doesn’t have ... a need to learn about the community and the need to find a place to live. He can get going right away, and the board and staff are all very happy Todd is coming in.”

Baum’s enthusiasm is shared by Leah Rosenthal, the nonprofit society’s artistic director.

“I know a lot of people in the community and at the symphony who sing Todd’s praises, so I am really looking forward to working with him,” Rosenthal said.

“Todd loves opera and is deeply knowledgeable about orchestral music. His love of the arts and his deep-rooted connection to San Diego are significant advantages — and a great opportunity for the La Jolla Music Society.”

Schultz will hit the ground running, even though the society recently canceled two of its scheduled January concerts because of the coronavirus pandemic and rescheduled two more for its 2021-22 season. In addition, jazz great Wynton Marsalis’ Jan. 23-24 performances with his band at, respectively, the Balboa Theater and the La Jolla Music Society’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center will now be held at a to-be-announced drive-in location on those dates.

La Jolla’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center is featured in an upcoming book chronicling acoustical masterpieces worldwide.

The fate of the society’s February through June concerts will be decided on a month-to-month basis, Rosenthal said. She envisions working closely with Schultz to help the organization pivot as necessary and move ahead.

“In the short term, I would say that when it feels like the world is falling apart is absolutely the best time to plan for the future, because it enables you to hit the ground running when things start getting better,” Schultz said.

“So, making lemonade out of lemons, we can use this this time of streamed and socially distanced performances to keep the organization going — and to really plan for rolling things back out when life can become more normal again. The short-term goal is to work with the society’s staff and board to achieve that and to really build on the work they’ve been doing already.

“I believe we should leave something better than we found it. I already have some ideas in mind that are my personal goals to take the society to the next level. Some of those goals have to do with our endowment and ticket sales. Some of that will depend on what goals Leah and Inon Barnatan [the music director of the society’s annual SummerFest] have and what they’ll do artistically to take us to a level that further some of their aspirations. The society already has a healthy national presence because of SummerFest and what the organization accomplishes year-round.”

Schultz grew up in the Kansas farming community of Trousdale, population 16, where he listened to classical music on the radio of his family’s tractor.

A trained classical pianist, he has a 1976 Yamaha upright piano in his Point Loma home and plays it daily.

“My dad told me that Trousdale now has three new residents — so they’re up to 19!” Shultz said. “It was a wonderful place to grow up.”

The graduate of Kansas State University has a dual degree in German and mass communications with an advertising emphasis. He was the Atlanta Opera’s director of marketing and public relations from 1989 to 1994, followed by a six-year stint with the San Diego Opera and four years with LA Opera, the nation’s fourth-largest opera company.

During his five years in Georgia, Schultz was a baritone with the Atlanta Symphony Chorus. He estimates he sang on 10 albums on which the chorus was featured.

“That was an amazing experience,” Schultz recalled. “Every rehearsal was a lesson in humanity as much as in music.”

But working behind the scenes is where he has thrived the most.

“I found that I love fundraising and connecting people to something they love,” Schultz said. “It’s a chance for people who deeply care about the arts to support something they really believe in. ... There is no better way for an organization to achieve its artistic goals than to have a financially secure foundation, and that excites me.” ◆