A Remarkable Woman: Olga Samaroff

Lucy Mary Olga Agnes Hickenlooper changed her name to Olga Samaroff to be taken seriously in the music world…

Lucy Mary Olga Agnes Hickenlooper was born in Texas on August 8, 1880. Lucy’s mother, Jane, and her maternal grandmother, Lucy Grünewald, saw in her a natural talent for music.

Under their tutorage Lucy excelled at the piano.  Her determination, demonstrated at an early age, would remain with her for the rest of her life.

Since Europe was the place for music and the USA had not yet reached a pinnacle in the music world, Lucy and her grandmother traveled to Paris in 1894.  Lucy so impressed those concert masters that in 1895 she was given a full scholarship to the Paris Conservatoire, the best music school of the day.  Lucy was the first American woman, actually still a young teenager, to be given such a high privilege.  She graduated in 1897.

It was in Berlin she would meet and fall in love with Boris Loutzky, a Russian engineer who is credited with the invention of the auto motor. However, her eyes were soon opened to the fact that Boris wanted a wife totally devoted to him without any aspirations of music—which was Lucy’s passion.

Like a spy novel Lucy abandoned Boris in St. Petersburg and secretly headed back home.  Boris did not take kindly to this embarrassment and threatened to kill her if the opportunity presented itself. Fortunately, for the world he never carried out his threat.

Another disaster which Lucy dealt with was the 1900 Galveston Hurricane in which her family experienced the tragic loss of their business like many others.  Fortunately, they escaped with their lives though little else.

Lucy would find love again in a young church organist from Great Britain, Leopold Anthony Stokowski.  Leopold would become a reckoning force in the American music world thanks to his talent and his devoted wife, Lucy.

However, the romantic fantasia of Leopold and Lucy would have its ups and downs.  A daughter, Sonya, resulted from their union.  After 12 years of marriage Lucy divorced Leopold because of his numerous affairs which tore her heart to pieces.  She would never remarry.

Lucy broke into the male world of concert pianists.  Until her talent emerged women were not viewed as capable of being a concert pianist in this country.  On January 18 1905 she rented Carnegie Hall and gave the first concert by a woman.  She was readily accepted by New York City’s elite.

After a shoulder injury she found a new avenue for her musical expression.  She joined the newly formed Julliard School as a teacher.

In addition she had a passion for writing from an early age.  She became the first woman music critic for the New York Evening Post.  However, her reviews tended to emphasize the positive points.  She valued young people and their innate talents.

Lucy became associated with the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music as chair of their piano department.  She established the Schubert Memorial Foundation and Laymen’s Music Courses.

Lucy never forgot the importance of music to both young and old. On the day of her death in her apartment on May 17, 1948 she had given several lessons.

Her death was a major loss to the music world.  Her legacy lives on in the lives she touched and what she accomplished in the 67 years that she lived on this planet traversing the cosmos. Her footprints on the sands of time will not soon fade.

She was a woman who did not accept societal norms of a woman’s place.  She pushed the boundaries of what was to become what is.  As she looked toward her farthest horizon she saw the possibilities of what could be.

She not only lived life she thrived because she kept thirsty for what life had to offer.  She never settled for what was.

I am sure her musical talents fit very well in that cosmic ocean where music was the foundation of creation.  For music touches the mysteries of the cosmos as well as the human spirit.

G. D. Williams       © 2012

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August 8, 1880 – May 17, 1948


She was a force, a mover and a shaker in New York who knew everybody from George Gershwin to Richard Rodgers to Gustav Mahler, says Donna Kline, who plays the piano (top) at her home in Tiburon. Kline produced and directed Virtuoso, The Olga Samaroff Story. (IJ photos/Jeff Vendsel)


Texas State Historical Association


Paris Conservatoire


Julliard School


The University of the Arts