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Staff Organist Was Child Prodigy

Diminutive Ruth Hulse Nelson who is regularly heard over KMOX, the Voice of St. Louis, in piano and organ recitals, is one of the most accomplished organists in the middle west, and began the study of music at the age of three. When but seven she composed her first song, “Dream of Night” and featured it on Chautauqua programs. Since then Ruth has constantly been in touch with the musical world. In 1924 she won a scholarship and studied under the excellent tutelage of Silvio Scionti. Through friends she became acquainted with Ralph Waldo Emerson, prominent organist and teacher who made her his understudy and assistant in the Emerson Organ School. After a short while Ruth had her own pupils. In fact, she had too many to handle, for by this time, Ruth was being featured on numerous radio presentations in Chicago. Finally she decided to devote all her time to radio and since then has been featured over station in Illinois, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri. Ruth first appeared on small stations only, but as time went by her popularity increased so rapidly that she was brought to St. Louis as staff organist for one of the most powerful stations in the country – KMOX the Voice of St. Louis. One of her fondest memories is of the time when she supplied the organ accompaniment to that now famous Tony Wons in a program of Shakespearian interpretations.
(Originally published in Radio and Entertainment 2/27/1932).

By Meryl Friedel

Someone has said, “the more a man has accomplished, the less he is apt to talk about himself or what he has done.”
Ruth Hulse Nelson, KMOX staff pianist and organist, is one of those people. Only just turned 29 – her birthday is June 23 – she has the distinction of being one of the very few musicians in the country recognized for her ability to play both the piano and organ with equal brilliance. Masters of these instruments say the difference in technique of playing either of them makes Ruth’s ability truly exceptional.
Yet only a handful of those who work with her know this…or know that Ruth is also a composer, that she was a child musical prodigy, that while still quite young, she won a famous musical scholarship, and that she has accompanied a number of famous singers.
She was born at Center, Missouri, but soon after, her parents moved to New London. It was there, when only three-and-a-half years old, that Ruth started her musical career with the study of the piano. She still cherishes “Red Wing” as the first complete song she ever played.
Her musical genius asserted itself immediately. When she was seven, she composed her first piece, “Dreams of the Night.” Already her fame as a pianist was beginning to spread and during that same year, she started a tour of Chautaqua circuits which lasted for two years.
Ruth attended the grade and high schools in New London, then went to Culver-Stockton College at Canton, Missouri. While at college, she also continued her musical study at the Quincy Conservatory of Music in Illinois. After two years there, she won a scholarship at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. It was soon after going to Chicago that she met Ralph Waldo Emerson, the noted organist who is a direct descendent of the famous poet. He induced her to start also studying the organ. It was then that she was studying piano, theory and harmony with the internationally famous Scionti. And during that period she composed the number that was so widely acclaimed as worthy of being classed with Percy Grainger compositions, “Southern Atmosphere.”
With all this fame and accomplishment…and more that we haven’t space to tell you about…Ruth has remained a charming unaffected young woman who displays none of the so-called temperament generally expected of successful artists.
Besides all her unusual musical talents, Ruth is pretty enough to have been successful on the stage. She has beautiful large, dark blue eyes, naturally wavy brown hair, is five feet, five inches tall and weighs only 115 pounds. And last, but most certainly not least, she has a gorgeous, infectious laugh that always makes the world seem right, no matter what mood one may be in.
(Originally published in Radio and Entertainment 7/15/1933).