The Society for the Preservation of Music Hall

Music Hall: 125th Anniversary Celebration
A beloved landmark

Scroll down for general information or click the underlined text in the table below to go to other pages

Cincinnati Enquirer "Music Hall Moments" letters to the Editor
Summary of the First Performances in Music Hall
What the Artists Have Said About Music Hall
The Music Hall Timeline in the Central Parkway Entrance Corridor
The Painted Violin Project
Other 125th Anniverary Media Coverage
125th Anniverary Event Wrapup:
The Program Cover  The Performers  The Honorees  The Food Fest
The Attendees, Committee, Board  Post Event Celebration 


The Grand Dame of Elm Street will be 125 years old in the year 2003. It is now the oldest Orchestra/Choral Festival Hall in the U.S. since the Philadelphia Orchestra moved from the Academy of Music into a new location.

Plans are underway to celebrate this extraordinary anniversary with special programming by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, May Festival, Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Ballet. The Society for the Preservation of Music Hall is planning to honor the occasion with a special event and will invite all to join in the celebration.

The date is set for May 7, 2003 and chairman Tom Osterman has announced significant progress on the event. He has secured the services of Courtis Fuller as host and Steve Finn as coordinator; participating performing groups have met and have begun planning the music and choreography for the show.

There will be an informal food event before the performance at minimal cost.

The Music Hall as it looks today

Cincinnati Enquirer Editorial
February 10, 2003

Music Hall: 125th year celebrations
A beloved landmark

Cincinnati's beloved Music Hall turns 125 years young this Ohio Bicentennial year, but a May 7 anniversary show to honor the national historic landmark will celebrate youth, not age. Top local youth performing groups will take the stage that night in this arts-loving town where stars such as Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, James Levine, Suzanne Farrell, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathleen Battle got their starts.

That same month of May, Cincinnati Art Museum will unveil its new Cincinnati wing, the spectacular Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts will open May 31, the expanded Taft Museum will reopen mid-summer, and a citywide "Festival of the New" will showcase visual and performing arts all summer long. Not to be outdone, Music Hall on May 7 will be celebrating "Music Hall Forever New."

Since the mid-1870s, Music Hall has been blessed with philanthropists such as Reuben Springer and Ralph and Patricia Corbett who built it, saved it or kept renewing it. For 125 years it's been a stabilizing anchor for Over-the-Rhine, and urban experts say it can still be a powerful catalyst for redevelopment. Many international greats of the performing arts have kept the resilient hall current, and some of that regenerating spirit is expected to be evident May 7 in the performers and the audience. In honor of Music Hall's 125th, tickets will be only $1.25.

Among the performers will be the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra May Fetival Youth Chorus UC College Conservatory of Music's Preparatory Brass Choir Venture Dancers of Cincinnati Ballet's Budig School of Ballet St. Francis Seraph Youth Choir Over-the-Rhine Steel Drum Band. Courtis Fuller, WCIN radio talk show host, will be emceeing. The Society for the Preservation of Music Hall and Cincinnati Arts Association are the organizers. The idea is to use the grand occasion to welcome talent of the future with audiences of the future.

Music Hall moments

Tell us your favorite memory of Music Hall and we will publish and post online the best leading up to the 125th anniversary celebration in May: a marriage proposal made there, a first date, a critic's recollection of some opera great, the threat from the 1937 flood, a boxing match, a UC basketball game in the 1940s, a Janis Joplin concert, some happy mix-up - any funny or personal or unforgettable anecdote about this historic hall that belongs to all of us.

Send to: Readers' Views, Enquirer Editorial Page, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; fax 513-768-8610; e-mail

Cincinnati Post Editorial
March 13, 2003

Celebrating a treasure

The issue: Music Hall at 125

Our View: Forever Young

Any list of the most revered buildings in Cincinnati would certainly include Music Hall, which this year celebrates its 125th birthday.

It's been around so long, become such an institution, that many of us take for granted what is a remarkable building with a remarkable history.

The structure arose from several of the great currents sweeping through Cincinnati at the end of the Civil War. We had emerged from the war more prosperous and more important than ever, civic pride was in full flower, and Cincinnati -- then as now -- was blessed with a number of wise and wealthy benefactors.

The magnificent brick building we know today as Music Hall was conceived mainly to accommodate, not a world class symphony orchestra, but two types of events that in those days were all the rage: German singing societies and vast industrial expositions where manufacturers and inventors could display the latest and greatest products of the blossoming Industrial Revolution.

In 1873 the singing societies got together to stage a single, spectacular (albeit less beer-oriented) festival; it was the start of what we revere today as the May Festival. Two years later they did it again. After the second one, a wealthy dry goods merchant, Reuben Springer, offered what we would today call a challenge grant: he would put up $125,000 toward the cost of permanent building to house the industrial exhibitions and the singing festivals if citizens would match the amount and the city would forever exempt the property from taxation.

Construction began in 1875 adjacent to what was then the city's most popular public park, Washington Park, on land between Elm Street and what was then the Miami-Erie Canal (today, of course, it's Central Parkway). The architect was Samuel Hannaford, who with his sons was responsible for so many of city's grand buildings.

Disputes arose during construction (the Cincinnati Bengals, alas, weren't pioneers in that regard) between the industrial and musical tenants. The solution was to add wings on either side of the performance hall. That's part of the reason Springer increased his grant by $50,000 and the public cost jumped to $300,000. But mercy, what a bargain. Cincinnati's Music Hall stands today, acoustically and historically, with the likes of Carnegie Hall in New York City and Symphony Hall in Boston as one of the finest concert venues in the nation.

At a time that finds another Hannaford building, the 1885-era Walnut Hills Presyterian Church built by people affiliated with the famous Lane Theological Seminary, about to be razed, it is some comfort that Music Hall continues to be used and lovingly maintained.

This year the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall and the Cincinnati Arts Association are planning a 125th birthday party in a style we enthusiastically endorse.

Rather than use it as another occasion for the black tie and fancy dress crowd that so often patronizes the building, or as a fund-raiser, the groups are planning a decidedly public affair. The keynote event is a performance May 7 saluting young people. Though colored by the famous fund drive a century and a quarter ago which saw children collect and donate pennies toward construction of the building, this is really an effort to engage Cincinnati in what it will take to keep Music Hall alive and vibrant: audiences that appreciate classical music, opera, ballet, the fine arts in general.

That's why the cost for a ticket to the May 7 event will be just 125 cents, and why the featured performers include the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra, the May Festival Youth Chorus, the College Conservatory of Music Preparatory Brass Choir, the Cincinnati Ballet's Venture Dancers of the Otto Budig AcademySchool of Ballet, the St. Francis Seraph Youth Choir and the Over-the-Rhine Steel Drum Band and the School for Creative and Performing Arts Children's Choir.

Mark it on your calendar now. This is a birthday worth celebrating.

Fact Sheets for SPMH/CAA Celebration of Music Hall's 125th Anniversary
by Tom Osterman, Chairman

The Society for the Preservation of Music Hall (SPMH) and the Cincinnati Arts Association (CAA) are collaborating to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Music Hall, which was conceived in 1875 and completed and dedicated in April 1878.

Date of the Main Celebration: May 7, 2003 (Wednesday)

Theme for Year (2003) of Celebration: Music Hall Forever New

Event: A Performance by Cincinnati Youth, Orchestra, Choirs, Ballet and Bands

Time of Performance: 7:00 PM at Music Hall Auditorium

Audience: Open to the public

Ticket Cost: $1.25 Admission (Available from the 125th Anniversary Hotline: 513-977-4190.)

Time of Food Fest preceding performance: 5:00 PM to 6:45 PM

Ticket to enter Food Fest: $1.25

Local Restaurants serving at Food Fest (to date 4/4); Skyline, Papa John's Pizza, Andy's Grill, Bruegger's Bagels, Kroger's, Divine's Chocolates, Busken's, Midwest Espresso

Following with Graeter's, China Gourmet and several other food places

Cost for each serving: $1.25

President of SPMH: Norma Petersen

President of CAA: Stephen Loftin

Purpose: To celebrate this amazing building's 125th year of existence.

Honorees:   Mrs. Patricia Corbett
  Mrs. Louise Nippert
  Mr. Charles Westheimer

Chairman Tom Osterman
and SPMH President Norma Petersen

Production Coordinator Stephen Finn
and Emcee Courtis Fuller

Additional Honorees:   Mr. Paavo Jarvi, Music Director, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
  Mr. Nicholas Muni, Artistic Director, Cincinnati Opera Company
  Mr. James Conlon, Music Director, May Festival
  Mr. Erich Kunzel, Conductor, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
  Ms. Victoria Morgan, Artistic Director, Cincinnati Ballet Company
  Mr. Eugene Frey, President, Musicians Local #1

The Event

Production Coordinator: Stephen Finn, Director of Education for Cincinnati Arts Association, formerly with SCPA (School for the Creative and Performing Arts)

Master of Ceremonies: Courtis Fuller, former TV Anchor, former mayoral candidate and currently with WCIN radio and a contributor to the community.

Scriptwriter: Mary Tensing

Performing Groups: (To Date April 2)

  • The Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra, Conductor Sarah Ioannides
  • The May Festival Youth Chorus, Director James Bagwell, Assistant Director Marilyn Libbin
  • The CCM Preparatory Brass Choir, Director Paul Hillner
  • Edward Uhey, Tenor
  • The Cincinnati Ballet's Venture Dancers of the Otto Budig Academy, Daniel Simmons, Director
  • SCPA Children's Choir, Laurie Wyant, Director
  • St. Francis Seraph Youth Choir, Beverly Toon, Director
  • North Avondale Montessori Choir, Wesley Barnfield, Director
  • The Over the Rhine Steel Drum Band, Avery Hammonds and Betsey Zenk, Instructors, Tracy Wilson, Conductor

This is an event and celebration that is all Cincinnati and designed specifically for the entire community.

The people organizing it and doing the legwork are all volunteers.

The performers are Cincinnati youth, whether playing in the orchestra, singing in the choirs, dancing the ballet etc.

William Owen Menefield, a talented young artist and composer, has created a new work entitled My Melody that he will play and accompanied by the North Avondale Montessori Choir, SCPA children's choir and St. Francis Seraph Youth Chorus.

Michael D'Ambrosio of CCM has created a Fanfare in commemoration of the 125th Anniversary of Music Hall

Conductor Sarah Ioannides of the CYSO will provide a new arrangement of Happy Birthday to be sung at the finale.

The Event is not a fundraiser. It is designed solely to celebrate this remarkable building. This building is also a testimony to the community's spirit, will and endurance. Music Hall mirrors the city, because in spite of many ups and downs over the past 125 years, Music Hall, like the city, has weathered some difficult times. However it has also had many periods of great exhileration from the triumphs of its citizens and the people that made it so.

It is a building that has touched so many lives in the community and elsewhere over the last century. It is one of three marvelously acoustical buildings in the U. S. alongside Carnegie Hall in New York and Symphony Hall in Boston.

Not only can we celebrate Music Hall, but also because of its unique position in the city of Cincinnati, it can become the catalyst, the center around which the city comes together and unifies itself towards its goals generally, and those goals particularly in the Arts.

Three other events are planned throughout the year for the 125th celebration.

The Violin Project: Joyce Holmes and Alberta Marsh, co chairs. This project will produce 14 violins painted by area artists, honoring various key individuals and organizations connected with Music Hall and displayed as they are completed throughout the months leading up to the fall season of 2003. Six violins went on display the weekend of April 4-6 in Music Hall. Each week thereafter at performances held in Music Hall, the violins will be on display. Ultimately a total of 14 violins will be completed and put on display. These 14 violins will be then be auctioned off to the public at an event in the fall at Music Hall.

The Archives Project: (Robert Howes, chair) This event will unveil the Music Hall Archives to the public sometime in the fall. These Archives are such things as the original letter from the City of Cincinnati's Health Department to the group building Music Hall in 1875-1878 (Reuben Springer et al.) asking them what they had planned to do with the bodies buried where Music Hall's foundation would be put.

Pennies for Preservation: This project is the brainchild of high school junior, Danielle Cahill. It mirrors 125-128 years ago when Superintendent of Schools Charles Aiken asked the school children to save and collect pennies for the building of Music Hall. The children collected $3000.00 toward the project that in today's economy would provide $46,600.00 of buying power. The task in 1875 was daunting. The task for Danielle today is daunting, since 4,660,000 pennies would need to be collected to duplicate the feat of those children in 1875.

For Immediate Release
Contact Barbara Hahn
(513) 984-4333 or
March 25, 2003 update

Music Hall's 125th Anniversary Special Project "Painted Violins"

Chairs, Joyce Holmes and Alberta Marsh Announced There Will be Thirteen Decorated Violins to be auctioned off during the Music Hall 125th Anniversary Celebration Year

The Violins Will Represent:

  Cincinnati Arts Association
  Cincinnati Ballet
  Cincinnati May Festival
  Cincinnati Opera
  Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
  Society for the Preservation of Music Hall
and individuals who have had a significant impact on Music Hall, including one that would be a collage of former celebrities and conductors.

Recognized Area Artists Will Paint the Violins

Artists to Date:

  *Judy Anderson (Music Director's Collage)
  Chris Bieri
  Lynn Hogan
  Beverly Kirk
  Mike McGuire (CSO with Paavo Jarvi)
  Les Miley
  Keith Mueller
  Carl Samson
  *Amy Tangvald (Eugene Frye, Head of Musicians' Union
  SCPA Art Department under the direction of Department Head, Althea Thompson (Pops)
  *Barbara Trauth (May Festival)

Artists' names with asterisk indicates violins which will be on display in the Music Hall foyer March 28th and 29th
Violins will be on display in the Music Hall foyer starting in March.

Additional violins will be added upon completion
The auction will take place in early fall.

For more information please call the SPMH at (513) 744-3558

$1.25 Admission (Tickets available from the 125th Anniversary Hotline: 513-977-4190.)

For Immediate Release
Contact Barbara Hahn
(513) 984-4333 or
March 30, 2003

More Details on the 125th Anniversary Celebration

Cincinnati Music Hall

Forever New
Wednesday, May 7, 2003

The Sequence of Events:
Cincinnati Foodfest Music Hall Ballroom at 5:00PM
125th Anniversary Concert in the Cincinnati Music Hall Auditorium at 7:00PM

Tickets Available: On Sale:
Tuesday, April 1, 2003 10:00 AM
CAA Ticket Offices at Music Hall & Aronoff Center
Anniversary Hotline: 513-977-4190
Ticketmaster Ticket Centers at select Kroger locations

Ticket Prices:
$2.50 total or
Cincinnati Foodfest- 5:00PM, Music Hall Ballroom ($1.25)
and 125th Anniversary Concert - 7:00PM, Music Hall ($1.25)

All concert tickets are General Admission seating. First come, first served

Venders will charge an additional $1.25 per item at Foodfest

SPMH PR Committee Members Claire Phillips, Ruthann Sammarco, and Sylvia Benjamin

Music Hall Anniversary Ornaments Now Available

An ornament to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Music Hall has been designed and is now available by calling the Anniversary hotline at SPMH at (513) 744-3558 or they will be available at the celebration May 7th.

The gold plated metal ornament depicts the classical emblem of the Music Hall. It is circular and two dimensional and measures about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. It also has a loop of gold thread for hanging.

The price is $1.25 each.

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