SOKOLOFF, NIKOLAI (28 May 1886-25 Sept. 1965), first conductor of the CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA, was born in Kiev, RUSSIAN EMPIRE (today the capital of Ukraine) to Grigori and Marie Sokoloff. At 13 Sokoloff moved with his family to New Haven, Conn., where he enrolled at Yale University's music school. After graduation, he studied music with Chas. Martin Loeffler in Boston, later studying with Vincent d'Indy in Paris. At 17 he became a violinist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He left Boston and, after studying in Paris, became the conductor of the Manchester Orchestra in England.
In 1918 he returned to America, where in Cincinnati he met ADELLA PRENTISS HUGHES and was persuaded to accept a position from the MUSICAL ARTS ASSOC. to make a survey in Cleveland's public schools and outline an instrumental music program. He accepted the position on the condition that he would be able to organize and conduct his own orchestra.
Sokoloff conducted the Cleveland Orchestra for 14 years (1918-32), initiating highly acclaimed national and international tours. He established a unique series of educational concerts for schoolchildren, and introduced recording and broadcasting concerts. Upon leaving Cleveland, Sokoloff became director of the Federal Music Project in 1935, through this organization, channeling money into Cleveland for unemployed musicians, providing the city with more opera and orchestral music than it had in many years. When he left the Federal Music Project in 1937, he became the conductor for the Seattle Orchestra. Later he organized an orchestra in LaJolla, Calif., where he remained until his death.
Sokoloff was married three times. He and his first wife, Lyda, were married in 1911; they had three children: Boris, Martin, and Noel. He married Ruth Ottaway in 1937, and was survived by his 3rd wife, Emma, whom he married in 1957.
Musical Arts Assoc. Archives.
Marsh, Robert C. The Cleveland Orchestra (1967).