Former Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt was introduced as the new president of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Friday.
Beyond his predecessor, Ronald B. Jarrett, can you name the previous six presidents?
Here is a list of the Tabernacle Choir presidents, according to “History of the Choir Database” and research by historian Christine Marin at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1. Who was the first president of the Tabernacle Choir?
- David A. Smith, son of the church’s sixth president, Joseph F. Smith, served as the choir’s first president and treasurer for 30 years, from March 1908 to February 1938, while also serving as a member of the church’s presiding bishopric.
- Managing the administrative, financial and logistical details of the choir’s increasing concert and tour schedule were among Smith’s primary duties.
- During Smith’s tenure, the choir made its first recordings, performed at Madison Square Garden in New York City and for President William Howard Taft in the White House.
- Smith died in 1952 at the age of 72.
2. Lester F. Hewlett
- Hewlett served for just under 25 years, from February 1938 to September 1962.
- Under his leadership, the Tabernacle Choir “grew in stature and reputation and accomplished achievements of worldwide note,” his obituary said.
- Hewlett organized tours for the choir to Europe in 1955 and to Canada and the eastern U.S. in 1958.
- He came from a background in business, spending many years associated with a family food processing, canning and packing business as a general manager and vice president.
- Hewlett died of heart illness at age 66, the same year he was released as choir president.
3. Isaac M. Stewart
- Stewart served as Tabernacle Choir president for 13 years, from April 1962 to September 1975.
- He graduated from University of Southern California and received a law degree from George Washington University before serving as an assistant to U.S. Sen. Reed Smoot, who was also a Latter-day Saint apostle, from 1928 to 1932. He practiced law in Washington, D.C., according to a Deseret News article.
- During Stewart’s tenure as president, the choir performed at inaugurations for President Lyndon B. Johnson (1965) and twice for President Richard M. Nixon (1969 and 1973).
- The choir toured western and central Europe in 1973.
- He died at age 85 on Dec. 14, 1990.
4. Oakley S. Evans
- Evans served as the choir president for nine years, from 1975 to 1984. During his administration, the choir sang at President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration (1981), toured in the Scandinavian countries and England (1982), and recorded 13 albums, including the first digital album, according to the Deseret News.
- Evans came from a background in business administration. He was the president of ZCMI department stores for 10 years and worked for more than 35 years as a vice president of corporate development of the J.C. Penney Co.
- He died on March 21, 1995, at the age of 82.
5. Wendell M. Smoot Jr.
- Smoot was president of the choir for 17 years, from July 1984 to November 2000.
- During his presidency, the choir went on several tours, recorded albums, made appearances and had many activities. The choir also broadcast 850 performances of “Music and the Spoken Word.” The choir sang at the inauguration for President George H.W. Bush in 1989.
- One historic tour during this time was to eastern Europe in 1991. The trip included stops in the four Iron Curtain countries of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Russia.
- When released at age 79, Smoot said the experience was a “‘marvelous experience’ and highlight of his life,” the Church News reported.
- Smoot served in the U.S. military during World War II and was seriously wounded while leading his artillery unit in France after D-Day. He was later awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, according to his obituary.
- Smoot returned home to find a career in money management and investments.
- Smoot died on July 3, 2011, at the age of 90.
6. F. MacRay “Mac” Christensen
- Known to many as “Mr. Mac” for his retail clothing business, Christensen served as president of the choir for 12 years, from November 2000 to August 2012.
- The choir sang at the inauguration of President George W. Bush in 2001.
- Prior to his service with the choir, Christensen was the director of the church’s Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center.
- When he was released, Christensen said: “Serving as the president of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one of the choicest calls in the entire church.”
- Christensen died in 2019 at age 85.
7. Ronald B. Jarrett
- Jarrett served for nine years, from August 2012 to August 2021.
- He was a singing member of the choir from 1999 to 2008, then served as assistant to the choir president (Christensen) from 2008 to 2011. He is the first choir president to have also been a singing member of the choir.
- In 2017, the choir performed at President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration.
- Jarrett was an elementary school principal for 22 years and a teacher in special education and elementary education for 12 years.
- He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from BYU and a postgraduate certificate in education administration from the University of Utah.
- Leavitt was introduced as the new president of the Tabernacle Choir on Aug. 6, 2021.
- He served as the 14th governor of Utah from 1993 to 2003; head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the President George W. Bush administration; Secretary of Health and Human Services; and adviser to U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney.