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Adella Prentiss Hughes: Music Is My Life

[ photo: Adella Prentiss Hughes ]

Music Is My Life

Adella Prentiss Hughes summed up her life work in the four–word title of her 1947 autobiography, Music Is My Life. She devoted herself to the promotion of musical interests in the greater Cleveland area for more than 40 years, and was the founding force of the Musical Arts Association and the world renowned Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. Prentiss Hughes was the first woman in America to establish and manage a symphony orchestra.

At Vassar, Prentiss Hughes studied music and performed as well as arranged tours for the glee club and banjo club. After graduating in 1890, she toured Europe, studied piano in Berlin, and dreamed of becoming a concert pianist. Back in Cleveland she become a professional accompanist at musical benefits and for visiting artists, but found herself drawn to concert promotion.

Prentiss Hughes promoted her first Cleveland concert in 1898. A news item for a program that carried "Adella Prentiss Hughes Presents" came to mean good music to the music lovers of the greater Cleveland area. Richard Strauss, Ignace Jan Paderewski, Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heinck, Nellie Melba, Gustav Mahler, the Diaghileff Ballet Russe, and the Boston Grand Opera all performed in Cleveland because of Prentiss Hughes. The symphony concert series of visiting orchestras that she presented went so well that Prentiss Hughes thought, "Why should there not be a Cleveland Symphony Orchestra since people are interested in that kind of music?" In 1915, she organized the Musical Arts Association, which supports the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra to this day.

Music Is My Life, by Adella Prentiss Hughes, World Publishing, 1947