La Jolla Music Society names veteran arts executive Todd Schultz as its new President/CEO

The La Jolla Music Society hardly needed to look beyond its own backyard to find Todd Schultz, who today is being named the 52-year-old arts organization’s new president and CEO.

Schultz, 54, has spent the past year as the 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 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 told the Union-Tribune.

“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 on 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.

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

“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 what some candidates for the job would need, which is 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 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 and rescheduled another two for its 2021-22 season. In addition, jazz great Wynton Marsalis’ Jan. 23 and 24 performances with his band at, respectively, the Balboa Theater and the society’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center will now be held at a yet-to-be announced drive-in concert location on those same dates.

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 through these unpredictable times 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 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 while listening to the radio on 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.”

A graduate of Kansas State University, Schultz 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 San Diego Opera and four years with LA Opera, the fourth-largest opera company in the nation.

During his five years in Georgia, Schultz was a baritone in the chorus of the Atlanta Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Robert Shaw. He estimates that he sang on about 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 it is working behind the scenes offstage that 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.”

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