Mary Ellyn Hutton will be remembered as a journalist with unflagging dedication to Cincinnati’s musical arts. The longtime classical music critic for the Cincinnati Post continued to cover the classical scene for more than a decade after the demise of Cincinnati’s afternoon newspaper in 2007.
She died surrounded by her family on May 28 after a battle with lung cancer. The Hyde Park resident was 77.
A classically-trained musician, Mrs. Hutton was a meticulous writer who chronicled and critiqued all of Cincinnati’s classical music institutions, large and small. She went on numerous tours with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and in the days before widespread Internet, took along her own typewriter so that she could fax her reports back from hotels abroad.
“Mary Ellyn was a delight to work with and infinitely increased the classiness quotient of the Post,” said Keith Herrell, who worked at the afternoon daily for 24 years, including as features editor from 1996-2001. “She wasn’t just a critic – she could wear a reporter’s hat, too, and wear it well. The community was enriched by her knowledge.”
Mrs. Hutton wrote for 23 years for the Post, starting in 1984. On Jan. 1 2008, the day after it closed its doors, she wrote on her website, “I will remember the knot in my gut writing on deadline Friday nights, the twinge every time I checked the paper the next day and the constant, uphill battle of making the Post matter to the social register mentality of Cincinnati’s arts community.”
After the daily closed, Mrs. Hutton established musicincincinnati.com, which was named “Best Web Site” by the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
“I will miss her enthusiasm, her dry wit and her genuine love for the arts,” said Cincinnati Opera artistic director Evans Mirageas. “Though the Cincinnati Post went the way of the winds some time ago, I relished Mary Ellyn’s blog posts thereafter, especially since space considerations no longer constrained her elegant prose.”
She was admired as an advocate for music throughout the region.
“Her support extended out to both established institutions and startup groups across Cincinnati area, and beyond,” said François López-Ferrer, whose father was music director of the CSO during the height of her journalism career. “I know my father, former CSO Music Director, Jesús López Cobos, held her in very high esteem. I will infinitely miss her and our conversations during our times in Cincinnati and Pärnu, Estonia, where she would travel nearly every summer to the Järvi Festival to support us young conductors.”
James R. Cassidy, music director of the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, appreciated that Mrs. Hutton “made sure through her reporting that Northern Kentucky was known and represented in the Cincinnati arts scene. The KSO will always remember her fondly as both a fan and true advocate for music throughout the Tristate.”
Arts journalism wasn’t a job. It was her mission, said Tom Consolo, a former Post copy editor through its last decade.
“I teased Mary Ellyn sometimes that she never heard a concert she didn’t like,” he said. “Partly because of her own training as a performer, music was such a source of joy to her. She found it in almost every performance she attended, and she wanted readers to learn and share that joy.”
Born in Lexington, KY, Mrs. Hutton was trained as a violist, graduating from the University of Kentucky. She earned a Master of Arts degree in music history from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
Mrs. Hutton practiced law in Kentucky and Texas before returning to her first love, music.
She was principal violist of the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and played viola in the New Haven Symphony Orchestra while at Yale. She served as associate principal violist of the Lexington (KY) Philharmonic Orchestra from 1971-80).
She married Dr. John J. Hutton, her husband of 52 years, in Lexington. The couple moved to Cincinnati in 1984, and her husband served as the longtime dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and director of the Biomedical Informatics Division at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
In addition to her work for the Cincinnati Post, Mrs. Hutton wrote articles and reviews for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Detroit Free Press, Newark Star Ledger, San Antonio Light, Musical America (musicalamerica.com), Opera News and many other news outlets and music publications.
She was named “Best Critic in Ohio” for print publications under 100,000 by the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists in 2008.
Mrs. Hutton was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. John J. Hutton, in 2016.
She is survived by her three children, Becky Hutton Fink of Tipp City; Dr. John S. Hutton, Jr. of Indian Hill; and Elizabeth Hutton of Bridgetown; a brother, Parker Labach of Overland Park, Kansas; and eight grandchildren – Kevin Fink, Michele Fink, Laura Fink, Stephanie Fink, Blythe Gross-Hutton, Astrid Gross-Hutton, Clo Gross-Hutton, and Scarlett Grome.
A memorial service will take place at 11 a.m. Friday, June 1, in Norman Chapel, Spring Grove Cemetery, 4521 Spring Grove Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45232. Visitation is at 10 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations are appreciated to: Constella for Kids Outreach (constellaarts.com/outreach); Concert Nova Outreach (concertnova.com/nextgen) or My Cincinnati (Music for Youth in Cincinnati) (mycincinnatiorchestra.org).
Tom Consolo contributed.