- Associated Press - Saturday, May 7, 2016

LOVELAND, Colo. (AP) - Cliff Schultz is wrapping up his 25th season with the Loveland Choral Society by completing one of his biggest goals. He is taking the group to Europe this July to perform.

“For years, I’ve been wanting to go to Europe to do a concert. These are concerts in the big cathedrals,” Schultz said. The members on this tour had to audition and they will be performing in places like Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. He wanted to give the group a chance to sing outside of Loveland and do something beyond their usual season run.

Locally, he will be wrapping up the anniversary season with “Rhythm on the River,” a show that explores the cultural regions of the U.S. along the Mississippi, at the Rialto Theater Center.

Schultz is married with three grown sons, all of whom have been part of the Choral. He has been singing since he was 5 years old, started singing professionally at 12 and went on to sing in high school and college. His education is in music as well.

The family moved to Loveland in 1980 and he became the artistic and musical director for the group in 1991.

The director at that time approached him to take over the group. It was called the Loveland Community Choir. It had 20 performers and fewer than 30 people in the audience.

“I will consider this, but I need to change its philosophy completely or it’s going to die,” Schultz said of the decision. The group had been mostly performing classical works.

Schultz left a directing job at the Immanuel Lutheran Church to take on this new challenge. He changed the name of group to Loveland Choral Society and came up with a new logo. They went from singing classical to staging shows and singing pretty much anything.

“I am not a liberal person, but I’m very liberal in music,” Schultz said. “Any kind of music, love all of it.”

Schultz starts with an idea and then together with his team picks out music and writes a show around it. Inspiration can hit from anywhere.

“I went to the ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ movie, which I liked a lot, and I … said I want to do a time machine musical,” he said.

He surrounds himself with a group of production people to help with all the work from sets to costumes to sound.

“If it wasn’t for those people, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Schultz said.

One of them is Aviva Pflock, stage director and assistant music director. She has been with the group for about 19 years.

“He’s got a big heart for people,” Pflock said about his directing style. The reason people stay with the group is Schultz’s ability to recognize the potential in each person, whether that be a talent or how the group could help them personally.

Pflock appreciates how they have created a supportive community. She and Schultz have worked together writing shows and picking music since her third year in group.

Asked why she enjoys working with him, she said “I think his big vision about everything.” Both enjoy not only entertaining the audience but also educating them. Each theme or topic is researched and the scripts are written from scratch.

“He’s not a typical choir director,” said Kathy Illick, a member of the group for the last 23 years. She said she appreciates how he focuses more on the end product versus the details.

“One of the things musically he does is give anyone a chance,” Illick said. There isn’t a set group of soloists and everyone is encouraged.

“He had an amazing ability to inspire people, I don’t know what it is,” she said.

Schultz admits the last 25 years have not been easy. There was a lot of learning involved. He worked full time with Mutual of Omaha as a top sales agent for many years; now he only works part-time. He had to balance the job with his family and passion for the LCS and it didn’t always work.

“The community choir is a totally different animal,” he said. Unlike the school or church choirs he had directed before, more of the everyday is involved. People have lives that affect their performances. LCS also has a fluctuating membership, as some like to do certain shows more than others. These factors can make things harder.

“I will come home completely wiped out but as soon as I am with those people, it’s like you are 25 years younger. They just adrenalize you,” he said.

Schultz has done 75 different shows with the group. They do three different shows a year and about 13 performances. He is proud of all they have accomplished, not only musically but in the community with food drives and other community service projects.

“Just a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment,” Schultz said of the anniversary, “not for what I’ve done but what the people in the community have done and the levels that they have reached.”

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Information from: Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald, https://www.reporterherald.com/

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