Curtis Institute of Music
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|Curtis Institute of Music|
The Curtis Institute of Music is a conservatory in Philadelphia that offers courses of study leading to a performance diploma, Bachelor of Music, Master of Music in Opera, or Professional Studies Certificate in Opera.
The institute was established in 1924 by Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who named it in honor of her father, Cyrus Curtis, a notable American publisher. After consulting with musician friends including Josef Hofmann and Leopold Stokowski on how best to help musically-gifted young people, Bok purchased three mansions on Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square and had them joined and renovated. She established a faculty of prominent performing artists and eventually left the institute with an endowment of US$ 12 million.
The institute has served as a training ground for orchestral musicians to fill the ranks of the Philadelphia Orchestra, although composers, organists, pianists, and singers are offered courses of study as well.
All pupils attend on full scholarship and admission is extremely competitive. With the exception of composers, conductors, and pianists, 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 170 students. According to statistics compiled by U.S. News & World Report, the institute has the lowest acceptance rate of any college or university, making it the most selective institution of higher education in the United States.
The Curtis Institute accepts students of all races, although there is some evidence that suggests that this policy wasn't very strictly enforced several decades ago: Nina Simone claims that she was rejected in the early 1950s because of her race despite excellent credentials and audition performance, even though, as the Nina Simone article states, George Walker had already graduated from Curtis by the time Simone had applied.
Past directors of the institute have included:
- Josef Hofmann (1926–1938) – pianist
- Randall Thompson (1938–1940) – composer
- Efrem Zimbalist, Sr. (1941–1968) – violinist
- Rudolf Serkin (1968–1976) – pianist
- John de Lancie (1977–1985) – principal oboist of the Philadelphia Orchestra for many years
- Gary Graffman (1986–2006) – pianist, continues on the piano faculty
Roberto Diaz is President and director of the Institute. Diaz 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. 
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Many of its alumni have gone on to notable careers including:
Henri Temianka, violinist, conductor
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