Davis People: Sterling Poulson– weatherman and chorister supreme
Poulson founded the Choral Arts Society in 1997, which includes 100 singers. Courtesy of Sterling Poulson
The storm was huge, even by Texas standards. Eight inches of rain within a 24-hour period in Ft. Hood, with flooding everywhere. A young Sterling Poulson recalled that when the water receded, “it looked like a driving range–because there were turtle eggs everywhere! All the turtle eggs that had been laid in the banks of the river had washed out.”
That sparked his interest in weather as a youth, and it’s never stopped. Now, a few decades later, Utah’s longest tenured TV weather expert and Davis County resident still loves studying the skies and meteorological conditions to see what’s coming next. He has been a fixture at KUTV in Salt Lake City since the early ‘90s.
“I built a little weather station on my mom’s clothes line–using an Erector set,” he recalled from those days in Texas, one of at least four different states he’s lived in. “I’m kind of a data freak. When I started to keep track of weather and forecasting, I recorded certain perimeters. I still literally track it on a daily basis. The data tells the story when I make my forecasts, so over the years I’ve kept records of those forecasts and score them every day.”
Sterling was born in Salt Lake City and adopted into a military family in Hawaii at age 2. His dad was in the U.S. Army and stationed there. The family moved a lot—to Texas, Alaska, and Washington, where his father was the ROTC instructor at Gonzaga University. Sterling graduated from high school in El Paso–and he attended four different high schools.
“I went into the U.S. Air Force right out of high school,” he said. “It was during the Vietnam War—they had a program called delayed enlistment. I was in basic training within three weeks of my graduation.”
He was a forecaster while serving in the Air Force, which he left in 1980, returning to Utah and looking for a job “in weather. I wanted a job with the Division of Air Quality, but the civil service hiring freeze was on, so I went to see Bob Welti (KSL’s longtime weatherman), who had an advertising business as well, and introduce myself. I told him I was looking for a job in weather. He took me down to KSL, introduced me to the personnel manager, and then in 1984, I got a call from Don Judd, who was a sports anchor, who interviewed me. I kept bugging Spence Kinard, who was the news director, and eventually I was hired as a weather producer for Bob and Kent Norton.”
Some time later, KSL announced that they had hired KUTV’s Mark Eubank as their new weather anchor. “When he came over to KSL, I thought there might be an opportunity at Channel 2, so I applied and was hired for their new morning news show. Ron Bird and I were basically the first local morning news program in Utah.” In 1993, he was moved to the evening news position he has occupied since.
But weather isn’t his only passion—so is music.
“I started playing the piano when I was five,” he said. “I played at church, and when I was in Vietnam, I played for church services there. I’ve always been involved in ward choirs—and almost always as the choir director. When I came back to Utah, I wanted to sing in a choir, and there was a connection.”
Jay Welch, who created the Jay Welch Chorale, was the person in Hawaii who connected Sterling with his adoptive parents. He invited Sterling to sing in the choir, and one day during a rehearsal, asked him to conduct a song.
“He ended up making me his associate music director, and he was my mentor,” Sterling said. “I learned a lot about conducting from him.”
In 1997, Sterling founded the Choral Arts Society of Utah, a group of 100 singers who perform an average of five concerts a year–either alone or in conjunction with other artists and events. They recently performed in the Days of ‘47 Pop Concert, the KUTV Holiday Pops Concert which benefits the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, and for Armed Forces Day at the Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City. They also performed overseas earlier this year, including in France at the D Day ceremonies in Normandy as well as in Paris. Sterling also had the rare opportunity in 2019 to guest-conduct a performance of his choir and one from Pennsylvania at Carnegie Hall in New York City, a concert he dedicated to his late wife Donette, who passed away in 2018.
Though music and weather may not seem closely related, Sterling said they are.
“In weather, you know there’s a storm coming. You see it out there, you see it developing, it’s coming your way, but you really don’t know how it’s going to turn out. When it’s over, you’ve had that experience.
“Music is the same way. You practice and practice and practice, but until you get to the concert hall, and you’re actually giving that concert, you really don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Then you get the reward of having that experience.”
He said both are extremely satisfying. He just loves seeing others enjoying music.
“Rehearsals are probably the most satisfying thing I do in music,” he said. “In the rehearsal hall I can formulate and help those people be better at what they do, and create some excitement for them. And that’s my joy–watching them succeed.” λ