The Hennepin Theatre Trust announced its new president and CEO on Monday, and it's someone who has heavy metal godfather Ozzy Osbourne — and some bad weather — to thank for his career.
Todd J. Duesing was planning on going into law and politics before he interned at the Riverbend Music Center amphitheater in Cincinnati during his junior year of college. That year Ozzfest, which drew tens of thousands of Osbourne fans to the al fresco venue on the Ohio River, was washed out by downpours, which left the place trashed and caked in inches of mud.
Duesing leapt into cleanup action, leading crews of laborers to make the venue pristine for a classical music show that was to follow. His initiative and organizational gusto caught the eye of management, which kept him onboard by offering more challenging and rewarding work after graduation.
Working backstage to make things run smoothly onstage also gave him tremendous satisfaction. By age 29, Duesing was named general manager of the Cincinnati Arts Association, which runs a 2,700-seat theater that hosts touring Broadway productions, among other venues. He subsequently rose to become chief operating officer of the Queen City's most prominent performing arts center.
On July 10, Duesing, 45, will take the helm of the Hennepin Avenue entertainment district that includes four theaters that host everything from musicals and concerts to lectures and special events. The trust also works with students in a variety of performance, public arts and critical review programs.
"I'm excited to be part of a team that's going to electrify the arts scene and take it to the next level," Duesing said by phone last week. "This is an amazing place that's boiling and about to explode in greatness."
Duesing said that he was drawn to the job because of what the trust has already achieved in building community as well as its growth potential as the city recovers from the pandemic and the social justice upwelling in the wake of George Floyd's murder.
Duesing takes the reins from Mark Nerenhausen, who succeeded Tom Hoch as president and CEO of the trust in 2017. Nerenhausen has been a mentor and role model for performing arts leaders across the country.
"Actually, there's a family-like connection because the CEO of the center where Todd works is my oldest friend in the business," said Nerenhausen. "They talk about coaching trees in football, and this is something like that in entertainment."
Nerenhausen lauded Duesing's experience and ability to get along with people, having overseen touring Broadway productions and working in a campus-like atmosphere of multiple venues, including historic playhouses like the ones the trust operates in the State, Orpheum and Pantages theaters.
"What's most special is that he also understands the vision that propels all of it," Nerenhausen said.
A native of Covington, Ky., Duesing has been bringing people together to celebrate since he was 10 years old, when he had carnivals in his backyard. He also was involved in presenting shows at Northern Kentucky University, where he studied communications.
But he never wanted to be a performer because the gods passed him over when they were handing out performing arts talents.
"I'm surrounded by people who love me and have told me that I should never go onstage except to make an announcement," Duesing said, laughing. "What I bring is a passion to make things happen."
He and his husband, Tom Haggard, have a golden retriever named Lady Bird. Haggard, a member of the school board in Covington, will join him later.
"People are calling Minnesota the bold North, and I'm honored and thrilled to be part of that," said Duesing. "It's a perfect fit for my next chapter, which I hope will be long and impactful together."