The Curtis Institute of Music believes that students “learn by doing.” Students enjoy numerous and varied performance opportunities from recitals within the school to tours around the globe.
The Curtis Student Recital Series offers more than one hundred free public performances each season, making available more than 24,000 free seats to Philadelphians every year. Students perform in Field Concert Hall almost every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night throughout the school year, with additional recitals in the spring. Some recitals take place at nearby venues such as St. Mark’s Church or the Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square.
Most student recitals offer a wide variety of solo and chamber works performed by mixed ensembles. Other events on the series include graduation recitals, faculty tributes, department recitals, and special events highlighting guest artists and residencies. Each year Curtis devotes a number of recitals to the music of our time with performances by 20/21: The Curtis Contemporary Music Ensemble, as well as performances of works by Curtis composers.
Student recitals are recorded by Curtis for educational use and possible broadcast. Highlights are featured on public radio stations WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and WITF-FM in Harrisburg. Select recitals are broadcast on Y Arts, a digital television channel of WHYY-TV. Simulcasts of select recitals are also available via Specticast's "Live from Curtis" series.
The Curtis Symphony Orchestra typically performs three concerts under the direction of eminent conductors in nearby Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, home of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Programs are frequently repeated at Carnegie Hall and in run-out concerts throughout the region. While in town, Philadelphia Orchestra guest conductors—such as Roger Norrington, Simon Rattle, and Michael Tilson Thomas—often lead the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in readings of major repertoire. This professional training, under the direction of Otto-Werner Mueller and David Hayes, has enabled Curtis alumni to assume leading positions and principal chairs in major orchestras across the United States, Canada, and abroad. Orchestral concerts are supported by the Jack Wolgin Orchestral Concerts endowment fund.
Chamber orchestra repertoire is performed by the Curtis Chamber Orchestra, which in recent years has performed in Philadelphia and New York City. In 2004 the Curtis Chamber Orchestra toured Japan. Concerts in the 2010-11 school year are presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.
The Curtis Opera Theatre performs fully staged operas each year, often with double casting to increase performance opportunities for students. Professional directors and designers create fresh interpretations of standard repertoire and contemporary works. The Curtis Opera Theatre performs in the nearby Prince Music Theatre and in its own intimate Curtis Opera Studio, a black-box theatre in the main building. Curtis recently established an annual production at the Perelman Theater—with a Curtis cast, orchestra, director, and designers--presented in conjunction with the Opera Company of Philadelphia and Kimmel Center Presents. The Curtis Opera Theatre often gives concert performances with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, and singers appear on the Student Recital Series. Under Artistic Director Mikael Eliasen, the program has enabled recent graduates to join the sixty-plus alumni who have performed with the Metropolitan Opera, as well as to perform with major opera companies worldwide.
Each semester Curtis 20/21 ensemble studies, rehearses, and performs music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Open to all students, the ensemble is flexible in size and scope to include works for solo performers, chamber groups, and larger ensembles with conductor. Guest artists and composers frequently collaborate with 20/21, including eighth blackbird, Lucy Shelton, Charles Dutoit, and Peter Serkin, as well Curtis faculty and alumni. Guest composers-in-residence have included John Corigliano and Joan Tower.
The 20/21 ensemble often performs in major venues outside of school and is committed to performing and commissioning works from Curtis composers, both current students and alumni.
Curtis On Tour brings students together with Curtis faculty and alumni to perform chamber music under the auspices of major presenters around the globe. One program tours annually, in addition to numerous recital opportunities and opportunities for community engagement activities in some tour locations. Curtis On Tour enhances participants’ educational and professional experience, creates visibility, and fosters connections to Curtis.
As members of the Curtis Chamber Chorus, students learn the basics of vocal production, ensemble singing, blend, and tuning. The chorus meets once a week for ninety minutes. All students are welcome to participate. The chamber chorus typically performs once per semester in Field Concert Hall. Its repertoire spans from the music of the Renaissance through Bach cantatas to contemporary works.
Through the Community Engagement Program, Curtis students perform in the PECO Family Concerts in Field Concert Hall; and in the Albert M. Greenfield Concerts, which provide interactive educational presentations for area schools, hospitals, senior centers, and community venues.
Curtis works to place student performers in concerts within the community for curricular and paid non-curricular performances. Students perform regularly on series at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Kimmel Center, Longwood Gardens, and other institutions. Numerous other performance opportunities are also available within Curtis and with many area organizations. Additionally, students may join the Curtis lab orchestra to rehearse weekly with Curtis conducting majors.
Students in good standing who have Curtis permission may gain professional performance experience in paid work for up to a maximum of twenty hours per week during the academic year. All international students must obtain authorization from the dean and the director of student services before participating in outside performances or internships.
Curtis students often substitute with the Philadelphia Orchestra and play with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra, and various regional orchestras. They also perform with regional organizations like Symphony in C and in music programs at schools, community, and religious institutions.