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The McCallum Theatre’s mission is to entertain, educate and enrich the Coachella Valley community through world-class performances, critically-acclaimed education experiences and serving as the desert’s premier performing arts center.


In May 1973, a group of Coachella Valley business, education and cultural leaders organized as Friends of the Cultural Center, Inc. and committed themselves to the creation of a state-of-the-art performing arts center.  Their vision was to enhance and enrich the lives of Palm Springs & Palm Desert residents by making the performing arts available to as many people as possible.  Fundraising began in earnest with thirteen sold-out performances by Fred Waring. By 1984, local developer Terry Hahn contributed $1 million to the project and Gerald Ford became part of the board of directors. Ford, in turn, convinced Bob Hope to contribute to the project.

Vision became reality in January 1988, with the opening of McCallum Theatre.  Opening night was an all-star tribute to Hope. According to Palm Springs Life, Van Cliburn inaugurated the Steinway piano. Lucille Ball had guests teary-eyed from laughing. Alvin Ailey dancers put their best feet forward and Sarah Brightman sang a tune from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera a month before it opened on Broadway.  In the audience that night were Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Gerald and Betty Ford, Walter and Leonore Annenberg, and many other notable VIPs.

Named for a pioneering desert family, the McCallum has gained acclaim as one of the country’s finest presenting theaters by audiences, entertainers and peers alike.  Ticket sales consistently place the McCallum in the top 50 theaters in the world.  Education programs have served more than one million local schoolchildren, educators and community members, while top entertainers praise the venue and its audiences.



  • Pearl McCallum bequeaths $250,000 for construction of a performing arts center.


  • A group of Coachella Valley business, education and cultural leaders organized as Friends of the Cultural Center, Inc. and committed themselves to the creation of a state-of-the-art performing arts center.


  • Friends of the Cultural Center forms to raise money to build a theater for College of the Desert.


  • A subscription series featuring entertainers such as Jose Greco and the Smothers Brothers comes to the desert. The five-year series eventually gener­ates 600 subscribers.


  • McCallum Theatre breaks ground, taking three years and $22 million to complete.


  • The Theatre welcomes its first guests to opening night, an all-star gala tribute to Bob Hope. Van Cliburn inaugurates the Steinway piano. Lucille Ball has guests teary-eyed from laughing. Alvin Ailey dancers put their best feet forward. And Sarah Brightman sings a tune from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” a month before it opens on Broadway.  In the audience are Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Gerald and Betty Ford, Walter and Leonore Annenberg, and many other notable VIPs.
  • Erna Schulhofer and friends form “Muses;” over 100 ladies become members with membership dues at $250.
  • Muses Patroness Circle level added with membership dues at $1,000.


  • Jacques d’Amboise of the National Dance Institute presents Shooting of Dan McGrew. About 400 children participate on stage, while 10,000 are bused in to watch the performances. The event marks the Theatre’s first major foray into education outreach.


  • Muses and Patroness establishes Ernest Hahn Endowment to support the Arts for Children Fund


  • McCallum launches a formal education department, McCallum Theatre Institute. Kajsa Thuresson-Frary is named Director of Education. The first project is Imagination Station – a popular summer camp program that runs for 9 consecutive summers.


  • The Aesthetic Education Program begins as a result of  a partnership with Lincoln Center Institute. McCallum Theatre Education hires teaching artists and form in-depth partnerships with local educators and schools to serve students with learning in and through the arts during school hours.


  • President and CEO Ted Giatas joins the Theatre, inheriting $7.5 million in debt. He and Jack Jones appear in a series of ads promoting McCallum’s tag line “It’s Your Theatre.” Through small donations, the campaign raises $120,000.
  • Open Call Talent Project gives its first performance on May 16, 1999. Co-produced by Judi Pofsky and Bob Reinhagen, the event was a co-presentation by McCallum Theatre’s education department and the City of Palm Desert. Tickets were $2 for students, and $5 for adults. The duo Blood Sisters, Allison Jones and Tricia Ridgeway, win the inaugural Grand Prize Award.


  • The City of Palm Desert gives the Theatre $5 million through a redevelopment agency grant.
  • Less than one month after the attacks of Sept. 11, Barry Manilow, Jack Jones, Hal Linden, Suzanne Somers, Peter Marshall, Keely Smith, and Susan Anton gather on stage to perform a benefit concert that raises $200,000


  • Muses and Patroness Board votes to approve that all funds raised be designated to the McCallum Theatre’s Education Department.
  • Dance under the Stars Choreography Festival is fully incorporated as a McCallum Theatre Education event. It was founded by local choreographer Shea New, also a McCallum teaching artist and College of the Desert professor, in 1998 and was a joint effort between College of the Desert and the City of Palm Desert with McCallum Theatre Education lending its support starting in 1999. The Festival later becomes Palm Desert Choreography Festival in 2019 after renewed funding from City of Palm Desert.


  • The Annenberg Reflection Garden is installed as a result of a generous gift from Marjorie and Harold Victor.
  • A $28 million capital campaign is completed for the purpose of updating the Theatre’s sound and lighting system and main stage curtain.
  • The Houston Plaza is installed in front of the Theatre commemorating a five-million-dollar pledge to the Theatre from Jackie Lee and Jim Houston.


  • Performing Arts Center Committee formed to study the feasibility of developing an expanded performing arts and arts education complex on the current sight of McCallum Theatre.
  • Modular unit installed in back of Theatre to provide necessary space for meetings and education activities.


  • Education Ambassadors assist with newly instituted East Valley Dance Project


  • Barry Manilow presents his first “Gift of Love” series of five sold-out concerts, the proceeds of which are distributed amongst 25 local charities.


  • The Theatre undertook a redecoration project to contemporize the classic ambience of the interior.


  • McCallum Theatre ends its fiscal year with a balanced budget for the 11th consecutive year!
  • First Annual McCallum Theatre Family Fun Day featuring “The Best of Open Call”
  • Muses and Patroness Board votes to add Patroness Silver level membership in honor of 25th anniversary with dues at $2,500. The goal was 25 members and resulted in 41 members upgrading to this level


  • Mitch Gershenfeld named McCallum President/CEO


  • McCallum Theatre receives a grant from The James Irvine Foundation to discover, support, and share the artistic voices of the Eastern communities of the Coachella Valley, and the Theatre enlists the leadership of David Gonzalez, resulting in the initiative, the Crisálida Community Arts Project.


  • McCallum Theatre named both “Best Live Theatre Venue” and “Best Live Music Venue” by The Desert Sun.
  • In its first quarter evaluation, Polstar names McCallum Theatre the #1 ticket seller in California and the #9 ticket seller in the world.


  • The Crisálida Community Arts Project initiative culminates with a McCallum Theatre staged production, “East Valley Voices OUT LOUD,” which showcases the vibrant talent of artists, performers, and storytellers from the East Valley.


  • Total monies raised for the McCallum and the Education Department reach


  • McCallum Theatre Education pivots to online programming during the pandemic and serves 50,000 students with programming online from March 2020-March 2022.


  • McCallum Theatre Education hits the one million mark of students and other community members that have been served with quality arts education and performance experiences since the department’s launch in 1997.


  • Palm Desert Choreography Festival celebrates 25 years with performances at McCallum on November 12-13. Toni Basil receives the Lifetime Achievement Award and Omar Roman de Jesus wins the Grand Prize Award in the professional division on Saturday evening.



  • Garry Kief assumes the role of Chairperson of the McCallum Theatre Board of Trustees.
  • Open Call Talent project celebrates 25 years on April 21 and 22 with three performances. The year’s theme is Authenticity and Sylvia Quintana wins the Grand Prize and Audience Favorite Awards.