Curtis students, alumni, and faculty share their reasons.
“[Curtis] prepared me for the real world, with real productions—with orchestra, costumes, and make-up, in a proper theater, and with great stage directors.”
—Juan Diego Flórez (Voice ’96), Curtis alumnus and internationally renowned tenor
“So many reasons! Because it’s small, it’s intimate. It’s free. Because it’s the best music school in the world. … The people you meet as a student here will be your people forever. The new building is incredible. When I was a student, we rehearsed in the old hall. If we played a Shostakovich symphony in there, it was deafening. And I’d have been a much healthier person if we’d had a dorm and cafeteria—I was eating tuna out of a can! It’s great for foreign students too, because they have the camaraderie of living in a dorm together.”
—Karina Canellakis (Violin ’04), Curtis alumna, conductor, 2016 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award
“First, I think the faculty is unparalleled. Second, it’s a performance experience you can’t find anywhere else. You want to play, you sign up and play. Every single musician here is great. [You’re] swimming in music the entire week, all the time, with all the faculty, and classes, and rehearsals.”
—Daniel Hsu (Piano), Curtis student, Richard A. Doran Fellow, 2017 Van Cliburn Competition Bronze Medal, 2015 Gilmore Young Artist Award, 2015 Concert Artists Guild Competition winner
“I had the possibility of going to a few schools in New York. I decided on Curtis, because it seemed friendlier than New York, for my first away from home. Also, because of the full tuition. At that point, I didn’t even realize how exclusive it is, and how lucky I actually was to get accepted.
“I think Mikael Eliasen was the biggest influence. He is genuine, and what he asks of singers is genuineness and individuality. Just the aspect of being onstage, and allowing that transformation to happen, and not only be in the classroom theorizing about what it is to sing, but actually get up and sing. To be special, be unique, be who you are, and express that. For that, I’m really thankful to him. … It’s easy to develop only the technical side of things and produce opera stars. And I don’t think that is what Mikael does. He doesn’t produce opera stars, he produces artists.”
—Rinat Shaham (Voice ’95, Opera ’98), Curtis alumna, mezzo-soprano
“Here at Curtis, there’s no dogma. I tell my students, ‘I’ll take any suggestions, you’re the boss.’ With me and Edgar [Meyer], you have two juggernauts in the double bass world; we try to craft the repertoire and the discussions around it, and we help the students develop the true sense of their personalities. Our students have success not because they play just like me or Edgar, but because we give them the information and the confidence to have their own voice. You won’t find two students here that are the same. I’m really proud of that.”
—Harold Hall Robinson, Curtis faculty, A. Margaret Bok Chair in Double Bass Studies
"Curtis is the most loving, caring, and supportive community I have been in so far. It is a place to explore your playing, learn from your talented peers, play together, and have fun. Most importantly, it is a place where you can feel perfectly safe to make mistakes—which is crucial to your growth as an artist."
—Gergana Haralampieva (Violin ’16), Curtis alumna
“Conducting is a very difficult art to teach, because it requires high level of musicianship and knowledge. A conductor needs sophisticated technical and musical tools. Besides that, a conductor needs experience, years of study, and social and artistic wisdom that are only developed with ‘flight hours.’ This is what makes the conducting fellows program at Curtis special. This program is designed for young conductors who are already experienced, with tools that can be developed at a further level. Curtis gives us real-life opportunities to let us develop our conducting under the guidance of the best possible mentors.”
“Curtis is a family, not just a school. It’s full of beautiful learning resources and opportunities, but in a familial safe haven. Art cannot exist in a box, and I admire that the administration supports and cherishes every student’s path and individual needs. I wish the rest of the world was this welcoming and attentive to each and every human being!”
“During high school, I was always at my teacher’s side, asking ‘What do I do next?’ All of a sudden, after entering Curtis, I was left alone, in a way, to figure out how to make music on my own. In between my lessons, there’s no one to say ‘this is right, this is wrong.’ Ultimately, here you learn how to figure things out for yourself. At the same time, everyone at Curtis wants you to improve, and you end up feeding off of each other.”
“There are so many reasons, starting with Mikael [Eliasen]: He’s always foraging for opportunities for singers, and he gets a lot of people from the opera world to come here and hear them, which can really help you make connections in your career. Apart from that, there’s the plethora of outstanding coaches, the high level of the Curtis Opera Theatre’s productions, and the chance to work closely and interact frequently with instrumentalists—they’re the musicians that will be accompanying you in the pit one day! In an atmosphere like this, there are so many different ways to learn.”
“I chose to go to Curtis because of the unique opportunities it offers: the opportunity I have to play an instrument of the highest quality for teachers of the highest quality, with the goal of making the highest quality music in mind. … As far as I’ve seen, it’s the only college that would allow a music major to even potentially achieve this. Curtis has resources that are made available so that any problem can be solvable.”
“I really would say, there wasn’t a single course at Curtis that was not valuable. All the teachers cared about what they were doing, and I think that’s something to be treasured, and I’m confident that’s still the case at the school: because of the smallness of it, the intimate setting.
“I learned to make music at Curtis in a way that was full of love: love for the music, and a passion to communicate that love to any listener … It has that youthful spirit to it, and consequently, optimism. Hope is found in abundance within the walls of that institution, and amongst the students.”
“Curtis is unique. All of the students—at least every one I’ve heard—are phenomenal. For someone studying music, being surrounded by such a high level of playing is incredibly motivating. It creates an environment where you’re constantly challenged. You go to a student recital, or a school orchestra concert, and think, “Wow, if they’re playing this well, I’d better start practicing harder!”
“My expectation was that the standard of playing at Curtis was very high, and that I would have to practice a lot to keep up with everyone.
“Once I started, I realized it was like that, only times ten. I felt very small, like I knew nothing about my instrument. But the best part of Curtis is playing with all of my colleagues and how supportive they are. They encourage everyone to play better, and they're very positive and open to feedback. It's a very open atmosphere—a lot of schools aren't like that.”