Julliard-trained conductor Francis Madeira founded the Rhode Island Philharmonic in 1945 and led it for thirty-three (33) years. Madeira moved to Providence in 1943 to serve as interim director of orchestras at Brown University. Upon discovering that Rhode Island lacked a professional orchestra, he proceeded to round up thirty-one (31) musicians and organized a chamber orchestra that toured the state. Madeira brought some of the leading musicians of the period to Rhode Island, including pianists Gary Graffman and Claudio Arrau, as well as violinist Isaac Stern.
According to David Beauchesne, executive director of the Rhode Island Philharmonic and Music School, “when you consider what the world must have been like in 1945, to be able to galvanize a community around a professional orchestra and then lead it successfully for 33 years is a testament to the kind of person he [Madeira] was.”
Francis Madeira also began the education programs that have become such an important part of the Rhode Island Philharmonic by founding a youth orchestra and organizing a series of education concerts during the 1950s. It was through the numerous youth concerts and lectures that generations of Rhode Island children were introduced to great orchestral works.
In 2014, Maestro Madeira was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. At the time, he told the Providence Journal, “I’m not dying from boredom.” At age 97, he still practiced the piano two hours a day.
After his retirement in 1978, Madeira lived in the suburbs of Portland, Maine. He became an avid hiker, setting out to scale all sixty-five (65) of New England’s peaks over 4,000 feet, a feat he would undertake three times until he finally quit at age eighty (80). Francis Madeira died in Maine in his hundredth year. He had no children, but he was survived by numerous nieces and nephews.
Francis and his wife, Jean, a star of the New York Metropolitan Opera were inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1970.