One of the finest music schools in the world opened its doors in Philadelphia on today’s date in 1924.
The Curtis Institute of Music was founded with a $12 million dollar grant from Mary Louise Curtis Bok. For many decades that initial grant provided full scholarships for all Curtis students. According to Mrs. Bok, “The aim is for quality of work rather than quick, showy results."
From the start, Mrs. Bok assembled a stellar faculty for the new school, including the conductor Leopold Stokowski, who predicted that Curtis "will become the most important musical institution of our country, perhaps of the world."
Distinguished Curtis alumni have included performers like Peter Serkin, Richard Goode, and Hilary Hahn. And here’s an impressive statistic: today Curtis alumni occupy nearly 25% of the principal desk positions in the top five American symphony orchestras.
Curtis also graduated many famous composers as well, including Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, and Ned Rorem.
To help celebrate its 75th anniversary in 1999, the Curtis Institute commissioned a new orchestral work from the American composer Jennifer Higdon, who had joined the school’s faculty. Her “Blue Cathedral” was premiered by the Curtis Symphony in the spring of 2000. Higdon says her music is like “a story that commemorates living and passing through places of knowledge and of sharing—and of that song called life.”
That description seems to fit the Curtis Institute as well.
Music Played in Today's Program
Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962)Blue CathedralAtlanta Symphony; Robert Spano, cond.Telarc 80596