Charles Aiken

Through his efforts and love of music, Professor Charles Aiken, a music teacher with the Cincinnati Public Schools, not only helped build Music Hall but he also is responsible for helping to shape the musical destiny of Cincinnati. In recognition of his distinguished service, a bust of Mr. Aiken sits in the foyer of Music Hall, along with busts of Reuben R. Springer, one of the founders of the structure, and Theodore Thomas, who was instrumental in the founding of the Cincinnati May Festival.

In 1842, Professor Aiken set up a system of musical instruction in the basement of the old Sixth Street Presbyterian Church. At first he didn't charge for his services, but as he worked with students, he continued to improve upon the methods he'd developed. He didn't starve; in those days, music was confined to the more advanced classes so he also taught Greek and Latin in a classical seminary.

Six years later, Professor Aiken was hired by the Cincinnati Public Schools in 1848 and for the next 30 years, he gave music lessons to thousands of young people. While that alone was a notable achievement in those days, he did more than teach them how to read notes and gain a reasonable proficiency in their application, he also gave them an appreciation of the best works of great composers. In a city noted for its musical heritage and festivals -- and particularly with the founding of the May Festival in 1873 -- this was a key ingredient in nurturing and supporting music in homes and at concerts and events. Within these students, Aiken sowed the seeds of an appreciation for, and love of, music.

During his tenure with the public schools, Professor Aiken established the post of Superintendent of Music for the district. In that position, Aiken rallied students to collect pennies -- they raised $3,000 worth -- to help support the construction of Music Hall.

RELATED INFORMATION

Read Cincinnati Magazine's feature story on the Nippert Family and their legacy of giving.

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