The dream of a conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio became a reality in April 1920 when a small group of founders from the Fortnightly Musical Club contributed $1,000 each to establish a "school of music where every type of student could find opportunity for the best musical education." 

The Cleveland Institute of Music officially opened its doors on December 8, 1920 at 3146 Euclid Avenue in a grand house with grand ideals. Ernest Bloch, the esteemed Swiss-American composer that Pablo Casals heralded as "the greatest composer of our time," was named the first musical director, and Martha Bell (Mrs. Franklyn B.) Sanders became executive director. The mission, proclaimed by Mr. Bloch, relayed the forethought that has guided the Institute throughout its history: "Musical education, in addition to the thorough study of technique, ought above all else, to develop qualities of appreciation, judgment and taste, and to stimulate understanding and love of music."

In 1922 CIM moved to 2827 Euclid Avenue and established a Preparatory Division "to awaken the feeling for rhythm and develop the sense of observation and discrimination among school-aged Clevelanders beginning the study of music." 


Ward Davenny became the new director in April 1955 during a period of major growth for CIM. Surviving the depletion of its own forces to the war effort but burgeoning beyond its very walls, CIM needed a new home, which it eventually found at its present site at 11021 East Boulevard in University Circle, the rapidly growing cultural and educational heart of Cleveland. The doors to the new building opening in 1961.

In 1960 pianist Victor Babin took the helm, joining the faculty alongside his wife Vitya Vronsky, his partner in one of the greatest piano duos of the 20th century. By 1965, studio facilities needed to be expanded, and 20 new Steinway grand pianos arrived from New York. "We now have about 120 pianos, mostly Steinways, including two 9-foot concert grands," beamed director Babin.

Following years of collaboration, CIM and its neighbor Case Western Reserve University launched the Joint Music Program, a relationship still unprecedented among a Conservatory and an R1 University. The program provides students of both institutions with access to faculty and academic and artistic offerings across the campuses. 

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