November, 4, 2015

Florence Jepperson Madsen: A Life of Service

By Anna Romney

Florence Jepperson Madsen

Many who have participated in BYU’s legendary choirs have fond memories of the Madsen Recital Hall. This space is used for choir rehearsals, student recitals, guest artist concerts and many more music-related activities—a fitting tribute to the woman for which it was named, Florence Jepperson Madsen. Florence had an auspicious beginning receiving the calling of ward organist at the age of nine, and becoming a contralto soloist for the Provo Tabernacle at the young age of thirteen. After completing her education at Brigham Young Academy and teaching there for a year or two, she continued her musical training at the New England Conservatory in Boston. Within a short period of arriving there, she was already performing at some of the most prestigious venues in the city, a feat which most locals would never dream of achieving in their own careers. After 14 years of acclaimed performances, Florence returned to Utah and became chair of the BYU music department. During her administration, she brought in a number of well-qualified musicians who helped the program flourish. Some of the programs she put together with her husband, Franklin Madsen (for whom the rehearsal space is also named), became established traditions.

After Florence had returned to Provo, she received word that one of her close friends in Boston had passed away, leaving three girls behind. This widow had no one to care for her daughters and wished for Florence to adopt them. Florence stood up to the task and returned immediately to the East Coast to retrieve the girls. In the midst of anti-Mormon criticism, Florence attend a number of court hearings to obtain guardianship. During this trying time, she received letters of support from prominent Utahns and easterners alike. These and her promise to marry and then raise the girls in a family setting swayed the court and allowed her to bring her new daughters back to Utah.

Florence Jepperson Madsen is an incredible example of using one’s talents for the benefit of others. May we all be aware of the talents we have been given and find ways to help others with them.