Curtis Institute of Music

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.

Curtis Institute of Music
Curtis Institute of Music Logo
Established1924; 97 years ago (1924)
Endowment$253.2 million (2019)[1]
PresidentRoberto Díaz
DirectorRoberto Díaz
WebsiteOfficial website


Looking southeast from Rittenhouse Square toward the Curtis Institute's main building at the corner of Locust Street (on the left) and South 18th Street (on the right) (2006)

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 talented 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.[2][3]

Nina Simone claimed her application for a scholarship 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.[4][5][6] A short while before her death, Simone was awarded an honorary diploma by Curtis.[5]

Notable facultyEdit

Eleanor Sokoloff was a piano teacher at the institute, beginning during her studies in 1936, and serving until her death in 2020.[7]

Penelope P. Watkins Ensemble in ResidenceEdit

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.

Notable alumniEdit


Past directorsEdit

Past directors of the institute have included:

Current administrationEdit

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.[8] Paul Bryan started his tenure as interim dean in January 2013.[9]


Gould Rehearsal Hall

Gould Rehearsal HallEdit

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.[10]

Field Concert Hall

Field Concert HallEdit

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.[10]

Rock Resource CenterEdit

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. [10]


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2019. "U.S. and Canadian 2019 NTSE Participating Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2019 Endowment Market Value, and Percentage Change in Market Value from FY18 to FY19 (Revised)". National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  2. ^ Michael Tanenbaum (January 29, 2016). "Curtis Institute of Music ranked most selective college in U.S." Philly Voice. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Curtis Institute of Music". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  4. ^ Eric Wendell. "Simone, Nina (Eunice Kathleen Waymon)". Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians. Archived from the original on March 22, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2012.
  5. ^ a b Dobrin, Peter (August 14, 2015). "Curtis Institute and the case of Nina Simone". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved September 14, 2021.
  6. ^ Fiorillo, Victor. "Nina Simone's Complicated Relationship With Philadelphia". Philadelphia Magazine. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Eleanor Sokoloff". Curtis Institute of Music. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  8. ^ "Roberto Díaz, President". Curtis Institute of Music. Archived from the original on 2010-04-18. Retrieved 2013-10-30.
  9. ^ Dobrin, Peter (January 8, 2013). "Curtis Institute dean exits". Interstate General Media, LLC. Retrieved October 30, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 39°56′56″N 75°10′14″W / 39.9488°N 75.1706°W / 39.9488; -75.1706