Francis Madeira – 2014

He built the Rhode Island Philharmonic from the ground up into a world-class symphony orchestra

Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra founder and conductor emeritus Francis Madeira (born 1917 in Jenkintown, PA) came to Providence to teach music at Brown University in 1943 after completing his studies in orchestral conducting at the Juilliard School, New York. Finding no professional symphonic orchestra then active in the state he became the driving force in the creation of a 30-member ensemble that would bring the music of the European masters to various parts of Rhode Island through concerts in high school auditoriums and similar community venues.

After generating interest and financial support from leading citizens and music lovers from Rhode Island’s business community, Madeira conducted the orchestra’s first concert in November, 1944 in Westerly, which was successful enough for a continuing season of six concerts in February, 1945. From that point on the Rhode Island Philharmonic has delivered high-quality musicianship year in and year out, and today it is regarded as one of the great regional orchestras in the United States with a roster of more than 70 musicians and a fully staffed music school that provides weekly lessons and ensemble experiences to more than 1,500 students. Madeira directed the Rhode Island Philharmonic for 30-plus years, retiring to his home in Portland, Maine in 1978.

During his tenure as Music Director he established a permanent home for the orchestra at the acoustically superior Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence; established a Youth Philharmonic program to train young musicians; expanded the repertoire to include a Pops Orchestra; maintained a community outreach program of concerts for school children; and brought in some of the best soloists that the world of classical music had to offer. His awards include The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, 1972; The John F. Kennedy Award for Service to the Community, 1978; The Citizen Citation Award from the Mayor of Providence, 2003; and the Distinguished Alumnus Award, 2010.