“Newsmaker: Tenor of the Family,” Ensign, June 1994, 69
Eight years ago, a 26-year-old tenor stepped onto the stage at the Lincoln Center with only thirty minutes’ notice and made his Metropolitan Opera debut. For Stanford Olsen, replacing an ailing colleague was the first step in an international career that would eventually include performances in Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, and Salzburg.
However, with all of his worldwide appearances, Brother Olsen knows that his most important performance is at home. He and his wife, Jennifer, made that determination years ago when they first met as students at the University of Utah. The two shared a love for music and a desire to make music a career. However, they also shared a love for the gospel and a knowledge that they would need the gospel truths to guide them through a life in the performing world.
It didn’t take long for the Olsens to experience firsthand the demands of their chosen lifestyle. Upon graduation, they were both accepted at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. While in Cincinnati, Brother Olsen was invited to join the Metropolitan Opera Company, and it was during his first season in New York that he made his surprise debut. Sister Olsen worked frequently as a free-lance pianist and is still her husband’s favorite accompanist.
Frequently, the Olsen family travels together when Brother Olsen performs. Consequently, they have spent months together in Europe, most recently in Paris. But traveling brings its travails. While in Paris, Sister Olsen was dealing with the discomfort of being pregnant when their two children contracted chicken pox. “Instead of touring the Louvre, we were dotting children with calamine lotion,” Sister Olsen recalls.
Regardless of where Brother Olsen is in the world, however, the gospel remains a part of his life. He served an Austrian mission and is presently the ward mission leader in the Fardale Ward, Caldwell New Jersey Stake. Sister Olsen serves in the Primary presidency.
“Some performers have a tendency to base their whole worth on their performances and on the applause,” notes Brother Olsen. “For us, the gospel’s teachings of family and service provide a balance to the challenges of our lifestyle.”
“When we were first starting out,” Sister Olsen says, “I would pray that if we were doing the wrong thing, we would fail miserably and quickly.”
But apparently they were right on course. And for audiences worldwide who hear Brother Olsen sing, there is no doubt that they have made a wise choice.—Stacey Clark, Sandy, Utah