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On January 6, 1930, James Nelson Cain was born in Arcadia, Ohio, the eldest child of Gladys and Alfred Cain’s three children. The family soon moved to Columbus.

James N. Cain

His mother was a violinist with a local non-professional orchestra ensemble. By age 14, James was working as an usher and self-described “water boy” for the Columbus Philharmonic. He was paid in part by free admission to the concerts. He became a frequent guest at Philharmonic conductor Izler Solomon’s home, where groups of orchestra musicians would gather to perform. He would leave just in time to catch the last bus home.

In 1948, the 17 year-old graduate of West High School in Columbus was preparing to enter The Ohio State University. That year the student, James N. Cain, continued his studies and founded Prestige Concerts with the goal of “The furtherance of Chamber Music.” In response to evolving civic growth and social norms, in 1982 our name was changed to Columbus Chamber Music Society and, in 2003, to Chamber Music Columbus.

Our first season was a series of five performances that established us as a presentation organization. It was also auspicious beginning to his amazing long career including 12 years at the helm of, the now, Chamber Music Columbus and ultimately the Aspen Music Festival, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra among others.

john cain wosu

James N. Cain as a student broadcaster at WOSU

To commemorate our founder’s birth month, we invite you to take a nostalgic YouTube trip back to November 29, 1948 to enjoy our very first concert held at the Small Theatre of the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. Same concert with contemporary musicians.

For the first inaugural season concert, Mr. Cain recruited the Walden Quartet, whose original members all played in the Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Cain scored the coup through John Garvey, with whom he had studied violin. Garvey was principal violist in the Columbus Philharmonic and had just been invited to join the quartet.

The artists at that concert were Homer Schmitt and Bernard Goodman – violin, Robert Swenson – cello, and John Garvey – viola. 

Our first season was a series of five performances that established us as a presentation organization. It was also auspicious beginning to his amazing long career including 12 years at the helm of, the now, Chamber Music Columbus and ultimately the Aspen Music Festival, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra among others.

Haydn. Parker Quartet
Opus 77 #1
Haydn. Parker Quartet
Opus 77 #1
William Walton. Quartet 1 in A minor
Marymount School of Music
William Walton. Quartet 1 in A minor Marymount School of Music
Castalian Quartet. Beethoven OP 59 #2 in E minor
Castalian Quartet. Beethoven
OP 59 #2 in E minor

With Your Help We Can Continue the Cain Legacy

During the 2003 season,11 years before his death, the Chamber Music Columbus Endowment Fund was created and christened the James N. Cain Legacy Society. The Fund is administered by The Columbus Foundation.

As we approach our 74th season, and our Diamond Jubilee during 2022-2023, we are inspired by the vitality, loyalty, and support of our many diverse patrons to continue to fulfill the dream of James N. Cain. Our legacy as the oldest continuing professional music organization in Columbus, and the country, challenges us, in very challenging times, to build on that legacy by presenting the best chamber musicians from around the world, and to support the many talented young Cains of today. With your help we are enthusiastically prepared to meet those challenges, indeed, to surpass your high expectations.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please contact Steve Moore at smoore@columbusfoundation.org or call him at 614-325-1250. 
Chamber Music Columbus is a 501 (c)(3) organization. Your gift may be tax deductible. Please consult your tax advisor.

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