Preserving Cleveland’s Musical Heritage

Cleveland’s development into the thriving city it is today is largely thanks to the role of the settlement movement at the turn of the twentieth century. The work of Jane Addams in founding Chicago’s Hull-House is a famous example of the efforts to alleviate poverty and help assimilate immigrants into American life at that time. Hull-House educated immigrants in history, art and literature, but also provided much needed social services like a daycare center, homeless shelter, and public kitchen and baths.


Almeda Adams was Cleveland’s answer to Jane Addams. She and Adella Prentiss Hughes used the Fortnightly Music Club’s $1,000 donation to found the Cleveland Music School Settlement in 1912. Almeda Adams recruited the support of prominent Cleveland families, whose names you’re likely to recognize, like Blossom, Drury, Ferris, Otis, and Mather. Following the first settlement house in England, The Music Settlement  was the fourth of its kind in the world. What began with 50 pupils has become one of the largest schools of its kind in the U.S., educating nearly 2,700 music students, including Tracy Chapman and “The Soloist,” Nathaniel Ayers.


In many ways The Music Settlement has remained true to its original concept - to provide the best musical instruction at a modest price, to provide scholarships to talented but impoverished students, to foster the love of music, and become a factor in the musical life of Cleveland. Although the cost of music instruction and tuition for the preschool, day school and early childhood arts classes is quite reasonable, financial assistance is available to continue making music education accessible to all. Arthur Kane, head of the piano department, was drawn to his position with The Music Settlement because of the wide base of the community served by the educational opportunities. “The Cleveland Institute of Music is a wonderful conservatory for students planning for a career in music,” Arthur explains. “But The Music Settlement is for everyone else, whether you’re just learning an instrument for your own edification, or purely for the pleasure that being able to play music brings.” (Full disclosure: Arthur is my piano teacher.)


Since 1938 The Music Settlement has been located at 11125 Magnolia Drive, once the home of Edmund S. Burke, who famously brought polo to Cleveland, and his wife, Kathleen Chisolm. During the latter half of the twentieth century The Music Settlement  purchased adjacent properties to form a historic campus in University Circle. Those properties include the Gries House, and the Kulas building, which houses the Center for Music Therapy, and the Griffiths Early Childhood building, containing the preschool, day school, and early childhood arts classes. A new campus is currently under construction at West 25th and Detroit and near that location on Detroit, the BOP STOP at The Music Settlement provides a live music and educational venue.


The campuses continue to be a substantial factor in the musical life of Cleveland, one of the original aspirations when The Music Settlement was founded. Exposing preschool-aged children to musical concepts has a profound effect on their brain development and long-term educational success. Providing music education for both children and adults opens opportunities for personal growth and potential academic scholarships. The Music Settlement was a pioneer in the area of music therapy which is an invaluable source of comfort and support to so many in our community. In these, and so many other ways, The Music Settlement sustains and nurtures the musical arts in Cleveland.


To continue providing the arts education in the architecturally and historically significant buildings on the University Circle campus, The Music Settlement recently initiated a capital improvement fund raising effort. The buildings on campus are physical representatives of Cleveland’s history and each has a unique story to tell. Through this ambitious fundraising campaign, The Music Settlement is investing in capital needs and programming initiatives across both campuses, as well as increasing their ability to serve more students in need of financial aid.


We continue to benefit from the philanthropy of the generation which founded Cleveland’s world-renowned cultural institutions, including The Music Settlement. It remains our responsibility to support our cultural heritage for the generations to come. The capital improvement of the buildings on The Music Settlement’s University Circle campus will be a small investment compared to the cultural and architectural heritage it will be preserving. If you are interested in learning more about TMS’s capital campaign, please contact their Office of Advancement at 216.231.5071.


The Music Settlement

11125 Magnolia Drive, Cleveland



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