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Dr Ruby Davy: Australia's First Woman Doctor of Music

Exhibition: Barr Smith Library Reading Room, level 2, until the 15th July 2018 and then in the new display space on level 1 from the 23rd July 2018.

Born in Salisbury and hailed as a child musical prodigy, Ruby Davy commenced studies at the Elder Conservatorium of Music in 1904 at the age of 20, gaining in the same year the University’s Associate of Music. Ruby was the first Conservatorium student to take composition as a principal subject.

Ruby graduated in 1907 and continued to teach music at the Salisbury School of Music and from a studio at Allan’s Music Shop in Rundle St, in addition to performing and accompanying other artists.

In 1913, at the age of 30, Ruby began her Doctorate of Music studying violin, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, kettle drums and other instruments of percussion, and graduated as Australia’s first woman Doctor of Music in 1918.

The sudden death of both parents in 1929 led to a nervous breakdown and the closing of her music school, by then located in Prospect.

At the age of 51, Ruby sought a fresh start in Melbourne. She opened a new and very successful music school and gave well attended lectures and recitals to societies and audiences while developing her own ‘colour’ theory of music

In 1939, following the encouragement of many visiting artists, Ruby organised a 3-year tour of England, Europe, Canada and America. After the relaxation of war time restrictions, Ruby was able to give her planned series of lecture recitals at Wigmore Hall as well as some radio broadcasts. Ruby was however continually afflicted by ill-health and money difficulties and in May 1940, exhausted, still short of funds and unable to cope with the cold climate, left England for America where she gave a number of acclaimed recitals and broadcasts before returning to Melbourne.

The exhibition showcases Davy’s life and career through her personal memorabilia, photographs and correspondence, with additional archival material from the Elder Conservatorium.

Celebrating 100 years of our first Doctorate of Music.

Rare Books & Special Collections

The University of Adelaide
Rare Books & Special Collections
Level 1, Barr Smith Library
South Australia 5005


Phone: +61 8 8313 5224