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Planned Giving News

Regularly updated, informative features about developments in planned giving at Curtis and how you can make a lasting gift to the school by including the Curtis Institute of Music in your financial and estate plan.

planned giving news - your legacy of music at curtis
APRIL 2016


Congress Extends IRA Charitable Rollover Provisions

New federal tax law enacted in December 2015 reinstated the IRA Charitable Rollover and makes this attractive income tax option permanent. The elimination of annual expiration dates will make it much easier for those who qualify to plan for the most tax-effective way to deploy their minimum required distributions.

The IRA Charitable Rollover allows people who have attained 70.5 years of age to make charitable gifts--up to $100,000 each year--directly from their IRAs. These "direct gifts to charity" qualify for the minimum required distribution (MRD) without having to report the distributions as taxable income. No charitable deduction is allowed if it is treated as an IRA charitable distribution. For our friends and alumni who support the Curtis annual fund, this can be a very attractive way to give.

We'd like to send you a copy of our one-page summary of IRA Charitable Rollover provisions. Please call the Curtis advancement office at (215) 893-5279 or contact Charles Sterne III, director of principal gifts and planned giving, at


Charitable Gift Annuities at Curtis

Some of our contributors may not realize that may be able to make gifts that pay them income for life. For example, a 72-year-old donor can receive a 5.4% annuity from Curtis in return for a gift of $10,000 or more. A portion of the gift is tax-deductible. Gift annuities also provide advantages to donors who give appreciated securities. And currently, gift-annuity rates are very attractive relative to interest rates earned on savings accounts and fixed-income securities.

At Curtis some restrictions apply. For example, Curtis will not issue gift annuities to residents of fifteen states which require onerous registration and/or reporting, or restrict how Curtis invests the gift.  For residents of these restrictive states, we can offer other attractive options such as charitable remainder annuity trusts and the Curtis Pooled Income Fund. At Curtis, the minimum age for a charitable gift annuity is 65.

To learn more and obtain a copy of our publication, "Information Concerning the Gift Annuity Program at the Curtis Institute of Music," please contact Charles Sterne III, director of principal gifts and planned giving, at or call his direct line at (215) 717-3126.


    Federal Estate and Gift Tax Update

A large measure of stability returned to the realm of federal gift and estate taxes with the enactment of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which set the unified estate and gift tax exemption at $5 million. The exemption is indexed for inflation, and have risen to $5.45 million in 2016. With the top tax rate currently 40%, the estate-tax charitable deduction is a powerful incentive for philanthropists with large estates.


Low Interest Rates and the Charitable Lead Trust

The above-mentioned $5.45 million lifetime estate and gift tax exemption, combined with low interest rates, continues to present an attractive opportunity for high-wealth donors to save on transfers to their heirs with a charitable lead trust. The IRS discount rate, currently 1.8% (April 2016), is historically low. If you'd like to learn more about charitable lead trusts and other trust arrangements that may help you achieve your estate and financial goals while providing much-needed funds to Curtis, please contact your professional advisors or the Curtis advancement office at (215) 893-5279.


Is There a Life-Income Plan That's Right For You?

You can make a significant gift to Curtis, in exchange for which Curtis will send you regular income or annuity payments. Your gift will help the school build a stronger endowment for the future, while giving you a current tax deduction, capital-gains tax advantage, and life-income payments. Life-income gifts also reduce the costs associated with estate administration. Your gift will ultimately be added to the school's endowment to help educate and train the next generation of Curtis students. To receive a personalized illustration and learn more about life-income plans at Curtis, please contact Charles Sterne III, director of principal gifts and planned giving, at or call (215) 717-3126.


Alumni Remember Curtis with Bequests

Curtis is grateful to the alumni who regularly support the Curtis Annual Fund, and to the following alumni whose recent bequests have strengthened the school's endowment. Their gifts make it possible for Curtis to be tuition-free and provide support for the training of Curtis students for many years to come, allowing the next generation of musicians to have the same opportunities they did. 

  • William Burns (Double Bass '63) was a member of the double bass section of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for 49 years, starting when Lukas Foss was the orchestra's music director. Mr. Burns studied at Curtis in the early 1960s with Roger Scott.  He died at age 73, a month after suffering a stroke. He named Curtis the beneficiary of his retirement plan, which has funded a $1.2 million endowment fund to benefit all Curtis students.

  • Alfred V. Brown (Viola '52) was an accomplished musician, arranger, and producer in New York, and one of the first African-American musicians to succeed in the the studio recording business. At Curtis, he studied with William Primrose and Karen Tuttle. Through his estate plan, Mr. Brown, who passed away in November 2013, gave Curtis his Max Frirsz viola and a Hill & Sons bow.

  • David Schwartz (Viola '37) became a highly sought-after studio musician in Los Angeles following his early years as a member of the Paganini Quartet and as a founding member of the Yale String Quartet.  One of the founders of the Curtis Alumni Association West, David served as its first treasurer and charmed us with an endless supply of stories from the early days of Curtis and the glory days of Hollywood. Early supporters of the school's planned-giving program, David and Jane Schwartz established a family trust that directs a generous gift to Curtis.
  • Suzanne Hanson Poole (Voice '50) was a generous supporter of the arts in her home state of New Mexico. Over the past two decades, Suzy served as a member of the alumni council, encouraged alumni to give back to the school, and made a substantial gift to the Lenfest-Annenberg Challenge. An additional $1 million gift from Suzy's estate will provide funds to train Curtis students for many years to come. 
  • Gaetano A. Molieri (Viola '35) was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1970 until his retirement in 1999. With a generous bequest in his will, Mr. Molieri established a viola scholarship fund at Curtis in memory of his teacher, William Primrose. In addition, many of Mr. Molieri's friends and Philadelphia Orchestra colleagues have made contributions to the fund in his memory. 
  • Karen Tuttle (Viola '48) left a generous gift to Curtis from her estate. A beloved musician and teacher, Ms. Tuttle first served on the Curtis faculty in 1945 and continued teaching until shortly before her death in 2010.
  • Ralph Berkowitz (Accompanying '35) was an early Curtis faculty member and cellist Gregor Piatigorsky's accompanist for 30 years. As Tanglewood's artistic director, he collaborated with Darius Milhaud, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and Serge Koussevitsky. Ralph endowed a studio at Curtis in memory of his first wife, Freda Pastor Berkowitz, and established the Ralph Berkowitz Fellowship for Curtis pianists.
  • Ingrid Sobolewska (Voice '41) was a student of the legendary voice teacher Madame Euphemia Giannini Gregory, who was a member of the Curtis faculty from 1927 through 1973. When she studied at Curtis, Ms. Sobelewska went by the name Muriel Robertson.
  • Wells Gemberling (Composition '46) left a bequest to Curtis in the name of, and as a memorial to, Sylvia Zaremba. Mr. Gemberling studied composition at Curtis with Rosario Scalero, who also taught Leonard Bernstein (Conducting '41) among many others.
  • Anna Bukay Hannaford (Harp '43) was a student of Carlos Salzedo, one of the original Curtis faculty members in 1924. Through her trust arrangements, Mrs. Hannaford left Curtis her 1946 Lyon and Healy harp.
  • Ellen Faull Gordon (Voice '45) studied voice at Curtis with Madame Gregory and left a generous gift to the school at her death. Her career spanned 40 years on stage and 45 years as a nationally respected teacher. Her daughter, Judith Gordon, told us, "My mother loved her time at Curtis and felt strongly that the investment Curtis makes in young artists is returned in manifold ways." 
  • Barbara Elliott Bailey (Piano '43) studied piano at Curtis with Isabelle Vengerova, a member of the original Curtis faculty. Among other accomplishments in her career, Mrs. Bailey performed as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and collaborated with numerous chamber music groups. She was an active member of the alumni council and one of the first alumni to join the Founder's Society.
  • Eudice Shapiro Kast (Violin '35) studied with legendary violinist Efrem Zimbalist. Her bequest was made in her name and in the name of her late husband, Victor Gottlieb (Cello '35). Ms. Shapiro performed frequently at the Hollywood Bowl. In her later years, she was a master teacher at the USC Thornton School of Music.


Honor a Family Member With a Gift to Curtis in Your Will

  • There is no better way to honor the memory of a loved one than with an endowment gift to Curtis.
  • Since 1928, every Curtis student has received a full-tuition scholarship.
  • Curtis is committed to, and focused on, its mission.
  • For more than 90 years, Curtis has maintained the highest standards.
  • Your gift to the school's endowment will create a meaningful and enduring legacy.
  • You can, if you wish, direct your endowment gifts to provide much-needed financial aid for Curtis students.
  • A gift of $250,000 will endow a fellowship for a Curtis student.
  • The school's endowment has a long history of being productive and prudently managed.


The Founder’s Society Comes of Age

Begun in 1992 by a handful of Curtis trustees, the Founder's Society is now celebrating its 24th year! Currently there are 185 Founder's Society members, ranging in age from 23 to 99.  About one-third of our Founder's Society members are Curtis alumni. Other members include Curtis and Bok Foundation trustees, parents of Curtis students, parents of Curtis alumni, faculty and staff members, and many others who share a strong interest in Curtis.

The Founder's Society is named for Mary Louise Curtis Bok, a visionary dedicated to giving young musicians the very best musical training.  At the urging of the school's director, the legendary pianist Josef Hofmann, Mrs. Bok established the school's merit-based full-tuition policy by making a gift of $12.5 million to the Mary Louise Curtis Bok Foundation. Although Mrs. Bok died in 1970, her legacy has endured, and Curtis continues to award full scholarships to all students, ensuring that admission is based solely on musical talent and artistic promise.

Once you become a member of the Founder's Society, you'll receive a subscription to Overtonesreceive information about upcoming performances, and be alerted to significant developments at the school. In addition, Founder's Society members are recognized in concert and opera programs and in the school's annual report. To receive a copy of our Founder’s Society brochure and our non-binding Letter of Intent, please send a message to Charles Sterne III, director of principal gifts and planned giving.


Working With Your Professional Advisors 

This page is updated regularly by the Curtis Institute of Music to inform alumni and friends of ways to ensure the future of Curtis through their estate and financial-planning arrangements. The information presented here is not intended as legal advice. We encourage you to consult your attorney and tax advisor to discuss how the ideas presented here may apply to your situation.


Contact Us

For additional information about planned gifts, including bequests and life income gifts, or establishing an endowment fund at Curtis, please e-mail Charles Sterne III, director of principal gifts and planned giving, or call (215) 717-3126.