Eva Louise Bradley: (1879 – 1956)
Eva Louise Bradley was born in the Eri Bradley Homestead on October 7, 1879 in North Haven, Connecticut. She lived there with her mother, father, and sister. When she was young, her aunt, Rosabelle Frushour Lines, taught her to play the piano. Eva was also a pupil of Professor E. A. Parsons of New Haven, Connecticut. Due to the precise and excellent instructions, Eva developed a love for music and the piano. As she grew older, she became an accomplished and prolific musician and composer. For two years, Eva studied at the Yale School of Music in New Haven, Connecticut.
Life as a Teacher
Bradley first taught music at the Phelps Private School for Girls in Wallingford, Connecticut, which is now part of Choate Rosemary Hall. In 1915, she left the Phelps school and opened her own studio at 39 Center Street in New Haven, Connecticut to teach piano and harmony. She shared this studio with violinist, Anita M. Lewis until 1921.
In 1905, Bradley began to teach a deaf woman how to play the piano. Ione Lucas, was a 17-year-old Yalesville graduate of the American Deaf and Dumb Institute in Hartford (now the American School for the Deaf.) Lucas contacted Bradley with one wish, to learn how to play the piano. Lucas had contracted a case of meningitis between the ages of 3 and 9, leaving her completely deaf with no recollection of sound. Lucas always asked her parents to let her play, but they were unsure that she would be able to. After being turned down by countless teachers, Lucas contacted Bradley in 1905 in hope that Bradley would teach her how to play.
Bradley was intrigued by this case and began to research if any music teacher had ever done something of this magnitude before. She found no reports of any teacher attempting to instruct a student with no memory of sound. She also consulted her fellow music teachers and they all discouraged her from taking on this job, as they thought it to be impossible. Yet Bradley did not listen to them and in October 1905, she began to give lessons to Lucas.
Bradley learned sign-language and came up with two interesting ways to communicate sound and feeling to Lucas. The first involved indicating changes in musical notation by applying varying pressure on Lucas’ shoulders. A second tactic was to have Lucas put the heel of her foot over a hole in the plate of the piano and focus on the vibrations she felt while Bradley played a song, In this way she learned to understand how the song should be played. It was said that the first time Bradley and Lucas tried this method, Lucas nearly went into “hysterics” but begged Bradley to keep playing, for that was the first time Lucas could “hear” music.
After nearly a year of continual practicing, Bradley held a recital for Lucas during which Lucas played the many songs that she learned. Many came to hear of the first deaf person to learn to play the piano and all were impressed. Unlike many hearing impaired who learned music, Lucas was able to play with emotion and enjoyed performing, elements due to Bradley’s willingness to teach her.
Bradley composed many songs throughout her lifetime. Some were created for her students, those from her studio and those from The Bradley Music Group that she organized and ran from her home on Clintonville Road beginning in 1930. She also organized The Bradley Music Orchestra which performed at local concerts and recitals, Some of her songs were “Fight for the Flag,” written in 1918 during World War One, “In the Cradle,” written in 1915, and “Ode to the Skull,” written in 1905 for the Order of Knights Templar to open their meetings.
Eva Louise Bradley had friendships with prominent musicians, among them, Ignacy Jan Paderewski and Godfrey Ludlow. Paderewski was a Polish pianist, composer, and the prime minister. Whenever he was in Connecticut performing, he would save a front row seat for her in the hall at his show. Ludlow, an Australian concert violinist saw Bradley’s violin score, “Moments” and liked it so much that in 1927 he used it as his debut piece on WJZ New York Radio.
Bradley had a rare and unusual collection of photographs, reference books, and musical scores. Photographs that she had in her collection included, photos of Frederic Chopin’s hands, Richard Wagner, Felix Mendelssohn, Cecile Chaminade, Victor Hugo, George Sands, Niccolò Paganini, Franz Liszt, Jenny Lind, Robert and Clara Schumann, Mozart, and Brahms. She also had an 18th-century rosewood pitch pipe and her grandfather’s Carthart melodeon. In 1938, she donated her entire collection to the Bradley Library Association.
Bradley was one of two women who applied for voting rights at St. John’s Episcopal Church before women were given the right to vote. Both women’s applications were denied. She was also the Church’s organist. She was very close friends with Center School Principal Mildred Wakeley and was in charge of music at Center School during Graduation ceremonies.
Bradley owned a .22 caliber rifle and was known to be an excellent shot. She whittled as a hobby. She loved outdoor activities and spent summers in West Brattleboro, Vermont.
Eva Louise Bradley passed away October 6th, 1956. She is buried in Center Cemetery with her father, mother, and her sister. She gave many town residents a love and passion for the piano and for music.
- Bradley, Eva Louise. In the Cradle. New Haven, CT: Loomis Temple of Music, 1915.
- Bradley, Eva Louise. Fight for the Flag. New Haven, CT: Loomis Temple of Music, 1918.
- Chapman, Lucy S. “Miss Eva Louise Bradley Dies On Eightieth Birthday.” (North Haven), October 12, 1956.
- “Deaf Girl A Musical Artist By Odd Teaching Methods.” Saturday Chronicle (New Haven), April 11, 1908.
- “Deaf, Yet A Pianist.” The Hartford Times, February 11, 1907.
- “Eva Bradley’s Rare Collection Presented North Haven Library.” April 11, 1938.
- Plays The Piano Although She’s Deaf.” The Hartford Times, February 11, 1907.
- “Remarkable Case Study: Deaf and Dumb Girl Has Learned to Play the Piano.” New Haven Leader (New Haven, CT), July 1, 1906.
- Santo, Guy. Eva Louise Bradley. Recollection and Biography, North Haven.
- W, H. “Miss Eva Louise Bradley.”