Learning and Performing

At the heart of Curtis’s unique “learn by doing” philosophy is the belief that the best way to become a great performer is to perform, and a Curtis education emphasizes this in all aspects of student life.

Students participate in lessons, studio classes, and chamber coachings with Curtis’s legendary faculty, which includes prominent soloists and orchestral musicians. Their unmatched musical lineage traces its roots back to classical masters of the 19th century and beyond.

Curtis frequently hosts world-renowned guest artists to work with students in residencies, master classes, educational seminars, and recitals. This performance-driven approach is supplemented by classes that encourage scholarship, sharpen skills, and enrich a student's overall musical experience.

The Curtis Performance Season

Curtis’s famed Student Recital Series forms the backbone of each season, presenting 100 free concerts of solo and chamber music in the course of the school year.

Instrumental and vocal musicians participate in an active chamber music environment that encourages them to collaborate and form new ensembles under the tutelage of world-class chamber musicians on the faculty.

Orchestral musicians perform in Verizon Hall three times each season with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, in addition to run-out concerts at venues in the tri-state area, smaller concerts with the Curtis Chamber Orchestra, frequent readings under guest conductors, and lab orchestra sessions with Curtis’s conducting fellows.

The Curtis Opera Theatre presents several fully staged productions each season featuring the members of the vocal studies department, accompanied by members of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra.

Special On-Campus Performance Opportunities

Curtis also offers a wide variety of specialized performing opportunities: 

  • The Curtis 20/21 Ensemble performs music of the 20th and 21st centuries, often collaborating with guest musicians and composers from the contemporary music world, including recent composers in residence Kaija Saariaho, Steve Mackey, Unsuk Chin, and Joan Tower.
  • The Curtis Collegium focuses on early music, including Baroque and Renaissance works.
  • Residency recitals give students the opportunity to perform side-by-side with unique guest artists such as Eighth Blackbird and the Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra.
  • In addition, groups frequently come together with a specific focus on the year’s all-school project. Over the course of students’ time at Curtis, they will participate in many of these specialized ensembles and concerts.

Performing in Philadelphia and Throughout the World

In addition to the many opportunities on campus, Curtis students perform frequently at venues around Philadelphia and the surrounding area, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, Longwood Gardens, and local churches, schools, and historical sites.

Curtis’s community engagement and career development programs teach students to create and sustain social value through community-based service opportunities, while also helping them to learn entrepreneurial skills that are invaluable in creating a vibrant career in music.

Outside of the Philadelphia area, Curtis on Tour brings the Curtis experience to the world, performing over 200 concerts in Europe, Asia, and the Americas since the program was established in 2008.

Practice Spaces

The Curtis campus offers many resources to support student practice and performance, from small rooms suitable for solo practice to large studios capable of accommodating chamber rehearsals. Students may also reserve Field Concert Hall and Gould Rehearsal Hall, pending availability, for large-ensemble rehearsals or recordings.

Instruments

Curtis maintains a collection of high-quality instruments that are available for student use.

All Curtis studios and rehearsal spaces include Steinway pianos. In addition, keyboard, composition, and conducting majors are loaned a Steinway piano by Curtis for the duration of their enrollment.

String players have access to a collection of instruments that may be borrowed for up to one year at a time, in consultation with major faculty.

Wind and brass majors may also borrow instruments when needed, from a collection that includes exotic and non-traditional instruments.

Percussion students have access to two state-of-the-art studios containing all the equipment needed for orchestral and chamber performances.

Instrumental Accompanists

While instrumentalists are encouraged to rehearse and perform with Curtis student pianists, all Curtis students have access to experienced staff pianists to prepare for private lessons with major faculty, Curtis-sponsored master classes and concerts, and performances on the Student Recital Series.

Audio-Visual Equipment Resources

Curtis also maintains studios with cutting-edge audio-visual equipment in both main buildings. This equipment is used to record all student performances, and to produce all of Curtis’s live-streamed performances.

Students may reserve time to work with audio-visual staff members to produce recordings for auditions and festival applications. In addition, classes are available for students to learn valuable skills to record themselves and produce promotional content.