Ardean Watts: Mormon Musician
Ardean Walton Watts was a former official pianist and associate conductor for the Utah Symphony.
He was reared in Kanosh, Utah. At the age of five he began the study of piano. After he earned his bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, he studied piano at the Academy of Music in Vienna, Austria. After he returned to Utah two years later, he became a conductor thanks to Maurice Abravanel. He became the Utah Symphony’s pianist in 1956 and later, in 1968, associate conductor.
He was awarded the 1996 Madeleine Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts and Humanities. The University of Utah Liberal Education Administration recognized him with a Distinguished Service Award in 1992 for his work as a music professor following his retirement from the Utah Symphony in 1979.
Watts founded the University of Utah Opera, later called Utah Opera. He was also musical director for Ballet West and Pioneer Memorial Theater. He was also chairman of the Utah Arts Council. During severe pay cuts for Utah Symphony musicians due in part to a reduction of funding from the government, he chained himself to a piano in front of the Federal Building in Utah in protest.
After his retirement, he also pursued other interests, including environmental issues, and sat on the international board of directors for Hawkwatch, among others.
Watts was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Satins. He and his wife, Elna, were the parents of eight children. He died on July 21, 2017.