Janie Thompson

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Jane "Janie" Thompson (1921-2013) grew up in the small town of Malta, Idaho, the oldest of seven children. Her family was very musical, and she jokes that as children they had no excuse not to be involved in musical endeavors. Janie passed away on June 1, 2013 in Orem, Utah, leaving a legacy of talent, accomplishment, and love on this earth.

Thompson began attending Brigham Young University in 1939. She played the piano to put herself through school and completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music in 1943. During her time as a student at BYU, Thompson worked with T. Earl Pardoe to produce a two-act musical on campus.

After graduation, Thompson pursued a career in show business, performing with celebrities such as Ike Carpenter and Tony Bennett. One of her first experiences was performing overseas for the soldiers during World War II in Britain, France, Germany and the Soviet Union. Thompson performed with the Civilian Actors Technician Service (CATS).

Janie Thompson reunites with Tony Bennett at Abravanel Hall in 2000. She sang with Bennett in the 1940s while performing with a band in Europe.
In 1947 Thompson returned to the United States and began working in California.

Thompson returned from her LDS Church mission in Wales in 1952. She then ran into Carpenter, who offered her a spot in a band. That same day President Ernest L. Wilkinson called and asked her to come to BYU and take over the Student Program Bureau. Thompson turned down the band and ended up at BYU for thirty years. The Student Program Bureau put on over 2,400 shows within four years, and under Thompson's direction they visited every high school in Utah during the 1952-1953 school year. These shows served not only as a recruiting tool but also a way to open the doors for missionaries throughout the country.

After four years at BYU, Thompson moved to New York where she coached talent in a professional studio. There she worked with the Kane Sisters. In addition, Thompson had her own quartet that played in various places, including the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Three years later, however, Thompson returned to BYU. After her return, she was invited by the Department of Defense to organize a performance for servicemen in the Pacific in 1960. She went on to organize several international tours through both the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of State.

By her retirement in 1984, Thompson was a legendary figure behind many of BYU's dance programs. She had created six touring shows including Brigham Youngsters, Young Ambassadors, Lamanite Generation, Holiday in the U.S., and Curtain Time USA. Two of them - the Young Ambassadors and Lamanite Generation (now Living Legends) still continue to tour, serving as representatives for the university.

In 2009 the film Janie Thompson: Performance of Faith premiered at the LDS Film Festival in Orem, Utah, which honored Thompson for all of her contributions to BYU. It continues to show periodically on BYU TV.

Thompson was recognized for her excellent work in February 2012, when she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the SCERA at its seventh annual Evening of Stars gala. She was also presented with the Distinguished Service Award for her service to BYU in 1992.

Other awards include:

  • Janie Thompson Day - The city of Provo designated November 14, 1968 as Janie Thompson day. The citation was signed by the mayor of Provo and both commissioners, and was presented to Thompson at a special luncheon sponsored by the Provo Kiwanis Club.
  • Ambassador Award - The Provo Kiwanis Club presented Thompson with the Ambassador Award.
  • Women of the Year - On February 9, 1971, BYU named Janie one of six outstanding women of the year at BYU.
  • Department of Defense Certificate of Esteem - Presented in October 1971 by Senator Frank Moss for her patriotic service in providing entertainment to members of the U.S. Armed Forces overseas.
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Thompson believed that the happiness of the gospel message could be effectively communicated through entertainment. Thompson felt that members of the LDS church should have their own standards, from standards of conduct to standards of dress and entertainment, without necessarily following the standards of the world. From Thompson's perspective, those participating in what she termed “show business” were especially influential in creating positive standards, because each performance had the potential to be a visual gospel lesson. She felt that this potential to influence others was both a great responsibility and a great privilege.

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References

  • Interview with Mike Ohman, November 2008 Part 1, Part 2
  • Winters, Charlene Renberg. "Janie Thompson to Headline at Homecoming." BYU Magazine. 1999. Brigham Young University. 26 Nov. 2007. <http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=208>.
  • Zimmerman, Thomas. "A History of the Program Bureau at Brigham Young University." Thesis. 1975.
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