Adella Prentiss Hughes, Founder of the Musical Arts Association and The Cleveland Orchestra
Adella Prentiss Hughes, known as the “Mother of The Cleveland Orchestra,” founded the Orchestra utilizing her strong artistic vision, management skills, and ambition. Born on November 29, 1869 in Cleveland, Hughes attended Cleveland’s first public school, Rockwell Grammar School, and then Miss Fisher’s School for Girls (later Hathaway Brown) before entering Vassar as a preparatory student at age sixteen. At Vassar, she earned a music degree and was a member of the glee club and college choir. During her senior year, she organized the banjo club and got her first taste of arts management by organizing a joint concert with the glee and banjo clubs. Upon her return to Cleveland from a season in Europe, she began organizing concerts with the Fortnightly Music Club. By 1901, she was engaging touring orchestras for performances in Cleveland, which became known as the Symphony Orchestra Concerts.
Her determination that Clevelanders should have their own orchestra propelled Hughes to organize the right people at the right time for arts development in Cleveland. She founded the Musical Arts Association in 1915 and The Cleveland Orchestra in 1918. Hughes worked tirelessly as the Orchestra’s first General Manager until 1933, and faithfully served the Orchestra until her death in 1950. Hughes was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 2001.
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