SALT LAKE CITY — The new president of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square is a familiar face to many Utahns.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday that Michael (Mike) Leavitt will take the place of Ron Jarrett, who has been the choir's president since August 2012. The group was formerly known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir until 2018, when the church changed the choir's name in its attempt to distance itself from the terms "Mormon" and "LDS."
Leavitt was Utah's governor from 1993-2003. Immediately after that, he went on to serve as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under then-President George W. Bush. In 2005, he became the Bush administration's Secretary of Health and Human Services until Barack Obama took office.
"Public service has been a part of my life, and I love being a part of things that are bigger than just me," Leavitt said. "This is a different kind of service, and one that I'm deeply grateful now at this point in my life to be able to engage in."
Leavitt said he hopes his leadership skills can help expand the choir's audience worldwide with the ever-increasing digital presence in today's world, adding that he wants everyone to experience the music that has influenced his life through the years.
"I have great optimism that the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square can attract an even larger audience — a more diverse audience, a worldwide global audience. A global church needs a global choir," he said. "They're talented musicians that I respect greatly who produce a product that I think is hungered for in the world, which is music that produces calm and peaceful thoughts."
However, the former governor said being called to this new role took him by surprise.
"This is not something I expected, but my surprise was quickly displaced by a sense of gratitude and a sense of optimism," he said. "I was asked to do this by a church to which I am devoted, so it was a privilege to be asked and a delight to say yes, and now I'm engaged in what will be a very nice adventure."
His wife Jacalyn (Jackie) will join him in the new endeavor. She is a former teacher and an accomplished musician, according to the church's announcement.