What Makes Curtis Unique?
Curtis's disproportionate influence on musical life since its founding in 1924 can be traced to its unique approach to education and training.
Curtis accepts just enough students to maintain a full symphony orchestra and an opera program, plus select departments in piano, guitar, composition, conducting, organ, and harpsichord.
Limited enrollment allows Curtis faculty to be extremely selective at auditions. According to the U.S. News and World Report survey, Curtis is the nation's most selective conservatory, with an acceptance rate of 4 percent. Its high standard of admissions ensures that students rehearse and perform alongside musical peers.
All Curtis students receive merit-based full-tuition scholarships. As a result, artistic promise is the only consideration for admission. Generous financial aid likewise ensures that every student accepted to Curtis can afford to attend.
Curtis students receive personalized attention from an extraordinary faculty of around ninety top-tier musical artists and highly credentialed classroom teachers. Many students have access to multiple teachers on their major instrument. There are no teaching assistants at Curtis. Class sizes are small and curricula are tailored to the needs of individual students.
Curtis's faculty includes a high proportion of successful performing musicians. Because their livelihood is not derived primarily from teaching, performance faculty members are free to accept students on merit alone. Their practical performing experience provides Curtis students with a direct link to life as a successful professional musician today.
All students are encouraged to perform frequently. Curtis's 166 students present more than 150 public performances each year to critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences. The Curtis Opera Theatre offers four or five productions per season, casting all voice and opera students repeatedly. The Curtis Symphony Orchestra, in which all but the very youngest students of orchestral instruments participate, gives a three-concert season in Philadelphia's Verizon Hall and performs often in Carnegie Hall. All instrumental students participate in chamber music, and Curtis offers more than one hundred student recitals each season.
Frequent master classes and residencies gives Curtis students in all disciplines exposure to today's leading musical artists, some of whom participate in performances alongside students. Well-known stage and music directors work with the Curtis Opera Theatre on fully staged productions every year. And ever since 1924, when Leopold Stokowski was instrumental in Curtis’s founding, the school has enjoyed close ties with the music directors of the Philadelphia Orchestra:
- Eugene Ormandy
- Riccardo Muti
- Wolfgang Sawallisch
- Christoph Eschenbach
- Yannick Nézet-Séguin
There is no minimum or maximum age to audition for Curtis. The school maintains that a greatly gifted young musician should study with an important teacher from the beginning of his or her conservatory days. Students of elementary-school or high-school age receive training from the same teachers at the same intensive levels as do their older colleagues. There are no "preparatory" teachers. The length of a student's stay is open-ended, and students graduate when their teachers decide they are ready. In most cases this occurs after three to five years at Curtis; it may be as few as two or as many as twelve years.
All keyboard, conducting, and composition students are lent grand pianos for use throughout their studies at Curtis. Curtis currently owns ninety Steinways.