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Florence Bettray was born 30 Nov. 30, 1891 in Racine to Charles J. Bettray (Oct. 10, 1857 – Dec. 26, 1939) and his second wife, Mary C. Rouff (Feb 1870 – Jul. 12, 1961). Florence was their only child. She died of a heart attack in Milwaukee Wisconsin Jan. 25, 1953 and was buried in Calvary Catholic Cemetery Mausoleum, Racine, Wisconsin.
Florence Bettray received her early education at St. Catherine’s Female Academy in Racine WI, founded in 1864 by Mother M. Benedicta and Mother Thomasina (Dominican nuns who had im- migrated from Bavaria). She was then a student at St. Clara College at Sinsinawa, WI for 5 years (school year 1905/06 – 1909/10). She studied violin as well as piano and her earliest recitals were in violin. She appears on the Saint Clara College and Academy Christmas Program dated Dec. 17, 1905 performing ”Romance in E flat” by Sivori and “Bolero” by Ravina Ritter.
In 1911, Florence became a pupil of the German-American pianist and composer, Emil Liebling (1851-19140). He pronounced her one of the coming artists in spite of her ‘‘teens.”
In 1913, she studied under Paul Stoye at the Chicago Musical College where “she broke a record of the school by being admitted to the post graduate class without first graduating from the school.” She studied composition under Felix Borowski, and harmony under Adolf Brune. Borowski was a British/American composer, teacher of piano and violin, and the Director of the Chicago Musical College. Adolf Gerhard Brune, (1870–1935) was an American composer. He was born in Germany and in 1870 immigrated to United State. His works were “mainly orchestral.” Florence won the diamond medal that year, an award given by the Chicago Musial College to the “pupils who proved themselves the ablest performers in their departments … the first prize, a diamond medal … third price, a silver medal …” (from Reform Advocate – June 11, 1892). Additionally, she “played the Schubert-Listz “Wandered Fantasie” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Auditorium.
In 1914, Florence received her artist’s degree at the Chicago Mu- sical College, and played the Grieg Concerto with the orchestra at Orchestra Hall. She became an artist pupil of Rudolf Reuter. At the commencement exercises of the Chicago Musical College in 1915 her own work, “Marche Symphonique” was played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Karl Rechzch.
The Chicago Musical College 1915-16 faculty catalog lists Florence Bettray as one of their piano faculty.
The National Federation of Music Clubs announced the following young professionals chosen to appear in the contest at the biennial in Birmingham, April 18, 1916 . . . Fourth District piano: Florence Bettray.
In 1916, Glenn Dillard Dunn, the Chicago pianist, teacher and conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra began his Young American Artists series, in which he planned to present a number of advanced pupils of Chicago teachers to the musical public. The first concert introduced Florence Bettray, pianist, and Mrs. J. Mitchell Hoyt, soprano. Miss Bettray had recently won the Inter-state Piano Contest. In Dunn’s words, “She showed excellent rhythmic sense and fleet, accurate fingers, with feeling for the music.” Musical America – Volume 25 – Page 42, 1916.
May 19, 1922 – Racine, Wisconsin newsclipping—
“Bettray – Wadmund – Florence Bettray, pianist, and Lowell Wadmond, baritone, gave a very interesting program at the Woman’s Club in Racine last week, the local press being enthu- siastic in praise of the event, which was pronounced to be one of the best concerts ever given in Racine.” Florence also taught music out of her home as shown in the Racine City Directory.
Nov 1924 The Sinsinawa – ”Ms. Florence Bettray is the pianist of the Alhambra Orchestra.” The Wisconsin Catholic Club Woman – Page 43.
Florence Bettray married George Francis Kelly about 1924. A marriage certificate has yet to be located, but when the 1930 Federal Census was enumerated in April of that year, both Florence and George gave their ages at their last birthday as 36 and their ages when married as 30.
[at some point between her graduation from St Clara in 1910 and the 1920 Fed- eral Census, Florence chose to reduce her age by 2 years. She thereafter consis- tently gave her age as that which equated to a birth year of 1893, which also appears on her tombstone. However, her birth record and all other information thus-far-located reflects her year of birth as 1891.]
1927 – Snippet view –
Florence Bettray Kelly – Post graduate and Master’s Degree, Chicago Musical College. Available for recital work for $25.00 and expenses. 1335 Wisconsin Avenue, Apartment 407, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
From The Sinsinawa, October 1931 – Mrs. Florence Bettray Kelly is listed among the artists who contribute to the programs broadcast over WTMJ, Milwaukee Journal radio station, Milwaukee.
From The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Friday, October 31,1930) we see Florence Bettray-Kelly listed among the new teachers who had been added to the faculty this season in the piano department.
Liberace was soon taken to Florence Bettray Kelly, a graduate of the Chicago Musical College and onetime Rosenthal student, who served as his teacher and mentor for over a decade. In 1940, he performed the Liszt A Major Concerto with orchestra.
Florence Bettray often performed her own compositions for programs she presented as well as classical works of great composers.
Anita Smisek, OP of Alliance Publications, Inc. has edited a number of manuscripts found in the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters’ Archives among which Andante for Violin, Cello and Piano were of interest and use by other students.
—Genevieve Mealhouse, research scholar

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