One way or another, Harold George Lutz was bound to find his niche in music –
even if the path led from a Hollywood stage to an East County classroom.
When a musical production to which he contributed compositions and his tenor voice fell short of hitting it big, he took his talents and academic credentials to Grossmont High School.
From 1939 to 1955, except for a few years overseas during World War II, Mr. Lutz taught music and directed the choir and an award-winning marching band.
He further enriched his musical legacy by composing the school hymn, "Hail to Thee, Dear Grossmont," and directing and writing music for the Westminster Choir at First Presbyterian Church in San Diego.
At the church's 90th anniversary celebration in 1959, he conducted the 140-voice choir in a performance that included two of his spiritual compositions.
Mr. Lutz, who retired from El Cajon Valley High School after more than 30 years of teaching in East County, died Dec. 23 at [Timber Ridge Assisted Living Facility, in Eureka, CA]. He was 93.
The cause of death was complications from internal bleeding and a bacterial infection, said his son Raymond.
In 1947, Mr. Lutz brought together music lovers and the East County business community to create the Grossmont Community Concert Association to support performing artists and bring musical talent to the area. The association began modestly with performances in the Grossmont High gym and evolved into the driving force behind the East County Performing Arts Center, its current home.
"My father could play just about any musical instrument," said his son, the current president of the Grossmont Community Concert Association. "His forte, though, was conducting – getting people to perform in a choir or a band.
"He did the choreography for the Grossmont High band at halftime shows and when it won in statewide competitions and the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena."
With the opportunity to be the first choir director at fledgling El Cajon Valley High, Mr. Lutz left Grossmont in 1956. He taught business classes at El Cajon Valley High before retiring in the early 1970s to manage apartments and real estate investments.
Property management brought out the handyman in Mr. Lutz, who had learned many of his building-maintenance skills as the son of a plumber in his native Upland.
"He turned down a chance to take over his father's plumbing business," Raymond Lutz said. "He wanted a career in music."
First, though, he made sure he had a solid academic foundation.
Mr. Lutz earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music at the University of Redlands and Pomona College, respectively. He then studied two years in a doctoral program at the University of Southern California and worked in Hollywood as an aide to musical producers.
In the late 1930s, when he presented one of his musical compositions, he devoted his energies to production and not enough to promotion, his son said.
Early in his teaching career, Mr. Lutz left Grossmont High to serve during World War II as a meteorologist in the Army Air Forces. He returned from the military to help Grossmont's blue-and-gold-clad band establish a tradition of quality musicianship that has continued for decades.
In 1988, still not ready to settle into a leisure retirement, Mr. Lutz moved from El Cajon to Humboldt County, where he bought a 75-acre recreational vehicle park in rustic Stafford that he operated with his wife, Mary, for seven years.
"He just loved the park; it probably added 10 years to his life," his son said. "He started doing gardening and landscape architecture."
With his vision failing because of macular degeneration, Mr. Lutz sold the park and moved to Fortuna, where he was surrounded by giant redwoods on the state's North Coast.
Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Mary; daughters, Anita Dominguez of Paradise, Rising Starr of Waterville, Wash., and Tamara DeBernard of Del Mar; son, Raymond of El Cajon; sister, Shirley Bertolino of El Cajon; six grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
A private celebration of life was held Dec. 24 in the redwoods near Fortuna.
Born in Upland California, March 4, 1911, Harold received his music degrees and teaching credential at Redlands University, Claremont College, USC, and Pomona College.
Harold was a Music teacher, choir and Band Director for 36 years, teaching at Grossmont and El Cajon high schools. The Grossmont Blue and Gold band directed by Harold won multiple state-wide awards at the Pasadena New Year's Day Parade competition. He was a tenor soloist and composer of many choir anthems, musicals, and other music.
He served as a sergeant in the Air Force during World War II, working as a meteorologist.
He was the music director of the 100-voice Westminster Choir at the First Presbyterian Church in San Diego, for 25 years.
He founded the Grossmont Community Concert Association in 1947 and it continued for 70 years but was forced to close after the City of El Cajon closed the East County Performing Arts Center in 2010 and it remained closed for more than 6 years. The GCCA moved to the Joan Kroc center but since the capacity was less than half of the capacity of ECPAC, it could not sustain operations, and conducted its final concert on June 15, 2016.
He is survived by his loving wife of 53 years, Mary Lutz, and daughters, Anita Dominguez, Rising Starr, Tamara DeBernard, and son Raymond Lutz, as well as six grand children and one great grand son.
After retiring from his teaching career, Harold was a Real Estate Investor and Apartment Landlord.
Harold bought a 75 acre RV park in the redwoods of Humbolt County in 1988, that he operated with his wife Mary until 1995 when they moved to Fortuna, CA.
Harold George Lutz died peacefully December 23, 2004 surrounded by his loving family.
A family memorial was held on December 24, 2004 in the redwoods near Fortuna at the base of his favorite redwood tree.