The dream of a conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio became a reality in April 1920 when a small group of founders 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 composer, 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." 


Ward Davenny became the new director in April 1954. This period was one of major growth for CIM, surviving the depletion of its own forces to the war effort but burgeoning beyond its very walls, necessitating the eventual construction of CIM's present site at 11021 East Boulevard in University Circle, at the end of the 1950s.

In 1961 Victor Babin took the helm. 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.