Curtis Institute of Music

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Curtis Institute of Music
Curtis Institute of Music (logo).png
Endowment$110.9 million (2017)[1]
PresidentRoberto Díaz
DirectorRoberto Díaz
WebsiteOfficial website

The Curtis Institute of Music is a private 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. It is among the most selective institutes of higher education in the world[2] with an admissions rate between 4 and 5 percent.[3]


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 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 ($177,000,000 in current dollar terms) in 1927.[4]


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.

All pupils attend on full scholarship and admission is extremely competitive. 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 famously claimed she was rejected enrolment because of her race despite excellent credentials and audition performance. Simone was one of 75 pianists to audition in 1951; only three were accepted.[5][6][7]


Past directors[edit]

Past directors of the institute have included:

Current administration[edit]

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]

Notable faculty[edit]

Eleanor Sokoloff was a piano teacher at the institute, beginning during her studies in 1936, and serving until her death in 2020.[10]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ As of May 31, 2017. "The Curtis Institute of Music Financial Statements 2017 and 2016" (PDF). The Curtis Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 19, 2018. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Michael Tanenbaum (January 29, 2016). "Curtis Institute of Music ranked most selective college in U.S." Philly Voice. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Curtis Institute of Music". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  4. ^ Stoddard, Maynard Good (2000). "A Legacy of Music". The Saturday Evening Post. 272 (1). Archived from the original on November 2, 2013. Retrieved October 30, 2013 – via vLex. "A Legacy of Music". Retrieved 14 August 2019 – via Free Online Library.
  5. ^ Eric Wendell. "Simone, Nina (Eunice Kathleen Waymon)". Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians. Archived from the original on March 22, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2012.
  6. ^ Dobrin, Peter. "Curtis Institute and the case of Nina Simone". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  7. ^ Fiorillo, Victor. "Nina Simone's Complicated Relationship With Philadelphia". Philadelphia Magazine. Retrieved 26 June 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. ^ "Eleanor Sokoloff". Curtis Institute of Music. Retrieved July 13, 2020.

External links[edit]

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