“A Symbol for Good,” Ensign, Jan. 1997, 68
When actor-singer Robert Peterson was 18, he suffered a serious head injury that caused a life-threatening blood clot to develop on his brain. He received a priesthood blessing, and in surgery the next morning doctors found no blood clot. During his hospital stay, Robert had a powerful inspirational experience that helped him resolve to make a career of using his singing and acting talents for good.
In 1953 Robert and his wife, Lois, moved with their three children to New York City, where Robert studied singing on a scholarship at Juilliard. Over the next five years, he attended five vocal schools and worked at various part-time jobs, including singing at churches of other faiths. Nevertheless, the family had to pawn Lois’s sewing machine in order to buy groceries.
In 1961 Robert landed a role in Camelot on Broadway as a chorus member and understudy for a minor role. The producers were impressed with the young baritone from Utah, and before long he was asked to understudy Robert Goulet in the role of Lancelot. Eventually he replaced Goulet on Broadway, and later he toured nationally with Camelot for two years. However, feeling disillusioned by the worldly musicals gaining popularity in New York during the 1960s, Robert subsequently turned to doing regional theater and industrial shows in cities nationwide. Later he returned to Salt Lake City, where he starred in the Pioneer Memorial Theater’s production of Man of La Mancha. Before long he was invited to join the University of Utah faculty as an associate professor and to join the Pioneer Memorial Theater as artist-in-residence. He still enjoys those activities some 25 years later. He also teaches private vocal lessons.
He has performed numerous benefit concerts for many causes, such as the March of Dimes. His Church-related work has included starring in Promised Valley in 1968 and 1969, narrating the Temple Square nativity scene, and portraying the voice of Brigham Young in Mountain of the Lord. In 1987 he received the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce’s Honors in Arts Award. Brother Peterson is a member of the Alta View Second Ward, Sandy Utah Alta View Stake.—Mark Purles, Draper, Utah