Preves was born in Louisville, Kentucky and earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music education at the University of Illinois. She moved to Minnesota in the 1960s, according to the Star Tribune.
Preves first auditioned successfully with the orchestra in the 1960s under music director Leopold Sipe, before taking a break to raise a family. She stepped down after giving birth to each of her two daughters, then re-auditioned and won her chair back both times, under conductors Dennis Russell Davies and Pinchas Zukerman.
She has been with the orchestra full-time since 1982 and toured with the group to South America, Europe and Asia. She also performed in the 1970s in the Preves String Quartet with her former husband, according to the paper.
Her last performance with the orchestra was in February 2005; she retired this fall.
Laura Preves Helgeson, Preves's daughter, told the paper "My mom just loved the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. She would say, 'I am the luckiest person to go to a job I love.' Obviously she was meant to be there."
Preves, who was also a viola and violin teacher and a life coach, died after a three-month struggle with liver cancer, according to the paper. A gift this year to the SPCO created an endowed viola chair in Preves's name.