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|Endowment||$253.2 million (2019)|
The Curtis Institute of Music is a private conservatory in Philadelphia offering courses of study leading to a performance diploma, Bachelor of Music, Master of Music in opera, or Professional Studies Certificate in opera. Its mission is to educate and train exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry. All pupils attend on full scholarship.
The Curtis Institute of Music opened on October 13, 1924. It fulfilled the fondest dream of Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who named it in honor of her father, Cyrus Curtis, an American publisher.
It was Mrs. Bok's work at the Settlement Music School in South Philadelphia with culturally and financially deprived children, many of whom were gifted enough for professional careers, that convinced her of the need to organize a music conservatory with rigorous standards of teaching and performance to train the next generation of musical artists. With artistic guidance from conductor Leopold Stokowski and the renowned pianist Josef Hofmann, Mrs. Bok assembled a faculty that would attract the most promising students, and developed a philosophy ensuring that these exceptionally gifted young musicians would receive training to prepare them for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level.
Curtis's rare tuition-free policy was established in 1928 and to this day provides merit-based, full-tuition scholarships for all Curtis students. Students continue to be accepted for study at Curtis solely on the basis of their artistic talent and promise.
In the school's early years, Leopold Stokowski predicted that Curtis "will become the most important musical institution of our country, perhaps of the world." That sentiment was echoed nearly 70 years later by cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who said "Curtis is unique, not only in the United States, but in the whole world."
The institute formerly served as a training ground for orchestral musicians to fill the ranks of the Philadelphia Orchestra, although composers, organists, pianists, guitarists, and singers are offered courses of study as well.
With the exception of composers, conductors, pianists, organists, and guitarists, admission is granted only to the number of students to fill a single orchestra and opera company. Accordingly, enrollment is in the range of 150 to 175 students. According to statistics compiled by U.S. News & World Report , the institute has the lowest acceptance rate of any college or university (4 percent), making it among the most selective institutions of higher education in the United States.
Nina Simone claimed her enrollment was rejected because of her race despite excellent credentials and audition performance. Simone was one of 75 pianists to audition in 1951; only three were accepted.
Eleanor Sokoloff was a piano teacher at the institute, beginning during her studies in 1936, and serving until her death in 2020.
The Dover Quartet is the Penelope P. Watkins Ensemble in Residence at Curtis. Their faculty residency integrates teaching and mentorship, and the resident ensemble will recruit promising young string quartets to nurture a new generation of professional chamber ensembles.
Past directors of the institute have included:
Roberto Díaz is president and director of the institute. Díaz is also a Curtis alumnus and faculty member. He was principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1996 to 2006 and is a member of the Diaz Trio.Paul Bryan started his tenure as interim dean in January 2013.
Gould Rehearsal Hall A 2,850-square-foot, acoustically designed rehearsal hall accommodates a full orchestra, with state-of-the-art video and audio capabilities.
Field Concert Hall, a 240-seat auditorium with splendid acoustics and facilities for video- and audio-recording, is used for weekly student recitals, faculty and alumni concerts, master classes, and recording sessions. It also houses a 5-manual, 116-rank Aeolian-Skinner organ.
The Rock Resource Center of the Curtis Institute of Music contains more than 100,000 music scores, books, and recordings for study and performance. Comprising the John de Lancie Library and the Curtis Archives, the Rock Resource Center’s mission is to: provide Curtis students, faculty, and staff with the best possible collection of printed music, books, periodicals, recordings, and electronic resources needed to fulfill the school's mission; promote the Rock Resource Center's holdings through forward thinking and open patron service; and preserve and make Curtis’s past accessible to the greater Curtis community. The Curtis Archives comprises largely unpublished materials whose value derives from its collection by, ownership of, or relation to, a Curtis-affiliated individual. Non-Curtis collections of published and unpublished materials, as well as published materials by anyone (Curtis-related or not), can be found in Special Collections. Official Curtis recordings are a part of the library collection.
The Philadelphia Orchestra is an American symphony orchestra, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One of the "Big Five" American orchestras, the orchestra is based at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, where it performs its subscription concerts, numbering over 130 annually, in Verizon Hall.
Leopold Anthony Stokowski was a British conductor of mixed Polish and Irish descent. One of the leading conductors of the early and mid-20th century, he is best known for his long association with the Philadelphia Orchestra and his appearance in the Disney film Fantasia with that orchestra. He was especially noted for his free-hand conducting style that spurned the traditional baton and for obtaining a characteristically sumptuous sound from the orchestras he directed.
Peter Adolf Serkin was an American classical pianist. He won the Grammy Award for Most Promising New Classical Recording Artist in 1966, and he performed globally, known for not only "technically pristine" playing but also a "commitment to contemporary music". He taught at the Curtis Institute of Music, the Juilliard School, Yale University, and Bard College.
John Sherwood de Lancie was an American oboist and arts administrator. He was principal oboist of the Philadelphia Orchestra for 23 years and also director of the Curtis Institute of Music.
TheChamber Orchestra of Philadelphia is an American chamber orchestra based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Its principal concert venue is the Perelman Theater of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, of which the orchestra is a founding resident company. The orchestra's current music director is Dirk Brossé, since 2010. The orchestra's current executive director is Anne Hagan, since December 2018.
Susan Starr, is an American pianist.
Jascha Brodsky was a Russian-American violinist and teacher.
Richard Woodhams(néRichard Clarence Woodhams; born June 17, 1949 in Palo Alto, California) is an American oboist and recording artist. He was Principal Oboe of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1977 until his retirement in August 2018 and is currently Professor of Oboe at the Curtis Institute of Music.
Combs College of Music was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, in 1885 as Combs Broad Street Conservatory of Music by Gilbert Raynolds Combs, celebrated pianist, organist and composer.
Abram Chasins was an American composer, pianist, piano teacher, lecturer, musicologist, music broadcaster, radio executive and author.
Mary Louise Curtis was the founder of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She was the only child of the magazine and newspaper magnate Cyrus H. K. Curtis and Louisa Knapp Curtis, the founder and editor of the Ladies' Home Journal.
Eleanor Sokoloff was an American pianist and academic who formed a piano duo with her husband, Vladimir Sokoloff. She taught piano on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music from 1936 until her death in 2020.
Sylvan Levin was an American concert pianist and conductor. He served as the assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City Symphony under Leopold Stokowski for many years. He also founded the Philadelphia Opera Company in 1938, serving as its director for six years.
David Saperton (1889–1970) was an American pianist known especially for being the first pianist to play the entire original compositions as well as the complete transcriptions of his father-in-law, Leopold Godowsky. He also recorded a number of Godowsky’s Studies on Chopin's Études as well as other pieces. His students at the Curtis Institute and later include Jorge Bolet, Shura Cherkassky, Sidney Foster, Julius Katchen, John Simms, Abbey Simon, Eleanor Sokoloff, Dorothy Wanderman, and Frances Ziffer. As a pianist he is regarded as a great dramatist, a sensitive poet and superb colorist.
The New School of Music is a music school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.
The Curtis String Quartet was an American string quartet based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
William Morris "Monty" Kincaid was an American flutist and teacher. He is known for his work as principal flute of the Philadelphia Orchestra for almost 40 years, teaching at the Curtis Institute and being a guiding force in the creation of an American School of flute playing.
John C. Krell was an American flutist, piccoloist, author and teacher.
Vladimir Sokoloff was an American pianist and accompanist on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music. In addition to his teaching work with the accompanying, piano and chamber music students, he was an active performer.
Daniel Hsu is an American classical pianist. He won the bronze medal, the Beverley Taylor Smith Award for the Best Performance of a New Work, and the Steven De Groote Memorial Award for the Best Performance of Chamber Music at the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.