Overtones Archives

Overtones is the semiannual magazine from the Curtis Institute of Music.

Each edition features stories and ideas from the Curtis community and explores issues that are central to the field of classical music and to conservatories.

View the most recent issue at Curtis.edu/Overtones.

Editorial Team

Brian Wise

Patricia K. Johnson
Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs

Ryan Scott Lathan
Associate Director of Communications

Past Issues

Explore highlights from previous issues of Overtones.

  • In this issue, we explore how members of the Curtis community are utilizing state-of-the-art scientific advances to harness the healing powers of music in medicine. Our Q&A spotlights alumna Jennifer Koh (Violin ’02), newly appointed artistic director of the Kennedy Center’s Fortas Chamber Music Concerts. We delve into a discussion on gender inequity in orchestras, make a case for Curtis Opera Theatre’s recent staging of Ariodante, and highlight what to look for in a manager (and vice versa). We also share news about the Dover Quartet welcoming Julianne Lee (Violin ’05) as its new violist, salute the class of 2023, and more.

    View the full Spring 2023 issue.

  • Overtones explores the importance of contemporary music at conservatories, and the role Curtis plays in developing the future of music. Our Q&A focuses on Curtis’s newest, dynamic faculty member, marimbist Ji Su Jung. We evaluate the job market new graduates face in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and celebrate the varied career achievements of our recent graduates. We also share tactics for social media, news about Curtis’s expanding digital footprint, peek into a newly-discovered story behind an artwork gifted to Mary Louise Curtis Bok, and catch up on news from community members.

    View the full Fall 2022 issue. 

  • Overtones magazine—newly redesigned and refreshed—has returned, sharing news and insight from Curtis and the music community. Our cover story explores the renovations to 1726 Locust Street, restoring its historic beauty and incorporating innovative technology. You’ll also discover Curtis’s groundbreaking Immersive Scheherazade multimedia project, meet faculty wind quintet Imani Winds, explore Curtis history, and catch up on news from community members.

    View the full Spring 2022 issue.

  • So Many Gorgeous Sounds: Robert van Sice embraces the sonic possibilities of the percussion studio with characteristic enthusiasm.

    Imperial Wonder: After 200 years, the power of Beethoven’s most majestic concerto endures, prompting deep reflection in performers like Curtis piano faculty Jonathan Biss.

    Growing Artists: The Sphinx Performance Academy at Curtis Summerfest offers a conservatory experience to young Black and Latinx string players.

    Close-up on Composition: Hong Kong’s Intimacy of Creativity festival promotes interaction among composers, performers, and the audience. Curtis participants share their impressions.

    Meet the Alumni: Double bassist Paul Kowert blazes a unique career path through classical, jazz, bluegrass, and folk forms, driven by his desire for musical growth.

    First Person: The historic and irreplaceable instrument of Notre Dame de Paris, nearly lost forever, is saved—and organists breathe profound relief, writes Alan Morrison.

    The Compleat Musician: Is music innate? Curtis students explore the origins of speech and song in infants, guided by liberal arts faculty Caroline Meline.

    Commencement 2019: Celebrate the class of 2019 with a retrospective of the ceremony.

  • Doing Opera: Philadelphia schoolchildren collaborate with Curtis composer Nick DiBerardino in the creation of a new work.

    Magnum Opus: Over three decades at Curtis, Mikael Eliasen has built an unparalleled training program for vocal artists.

    Meet the Faculty: Meng-Chieh Liu challenges students to achieve a perfect balance among the many aspects of musicianship.

    Meet the Students: At 23, baritone Dennis Chmelensky embarks on his second singing career with deep commitment.

    Meet the Alumni: Nurtured at Curtis, the Dover Quartet is increasingly recognized for its identifiable voice.

    First Person: Curtis musicians help a class of medical students apply a new, needed set of skills.

    The Compleat Musician: A demanding discipline, solfège develops the inner ear of Curtis musicians.

  • Teacher, Mentor, Father, Friend: Curtis celebrates the 90th birthday of its past leader and beloved piano faculty member, Gary Graffman.

    High Marks: The reaccreditation process requires an intense period of self-study. Dean Paul Bryan relates the resulting discoveries—and their implications.

    Electronic Odyssey: Pioneering composer and visiting faculty Tod Machover guided six young composers through new territory last spring. Composition chair David Ludwig and the students reflect on the journey.

    Meet the Faculty: Liberal arts chair and poet Jeanne Minahan McGinn is a discerning and generous listener. David Allen visits her classroom.

    Meet the Students: Cellist Oliver Herbert is setting his musical course with quiet conviction, writes Matthew Barker.

    Meet the Alumni: The versatile trumpeter Kevin Cobb grounds his career in chamber music. Ian VanderMeulen reports on the American Brass Quintet member, who is also a busy New York freelancer and teacher.

    First Person: Opera student Ashley Marie Robillard reflects on the Curtis Opera Theatre roles that have prepared her for the professional world.

    The Compleat Musician: Learning liberal arts by doing takes students beyond the walls of Curtis. Historian and liberal arts faculty member Eva Swidler explores how they put abstract learning to work.

  • Meet the Faculty: Cellist Carter Brey follows his curiosity outside the box—and brings students with him.

    Meet the Students: French-born harpist Héloïse Carlean-Jones digs deep into the score, and then lets go.

    The Compleat Musician: For performers, the classroom provides a stimulating biodiversity of ideas.

    A Deeply Moving Experience: Leonard Bernstein’s two years attending Curtis left a lasting mark—on the student and the school.

    First Person: “On the Other Side of Locust Street,” an organ scholar’s experience at Saint Mark’s Church

    Meet the Alumni: Soprano Amanda Majeski (Opera ’09) makes every experience count.

    A Reunion and a Homecoming: Curtis alumni return to campus to teach and reconnect during Summerfest.

  • Meet the Faculty: With infectious enthusiasm, Danielle Orlando motivates young singers to be their best on the stage.

    Meet the Students: Braizahn Jones’s rapid rise has been fueled by intense commitment and a holistic approach to everything.

    “Musical Gold”: Students reflect on the Curtis Symphony Orchestra’s ambitious summer sojourn to Europe.

    Chief Commissioner: Curtis generates a substantial body of new work from alumni, faculty, and student composers.

    First Person: Composer Emily Cooley’s Community Artist Program project sets the stage for musical collaboration and celebration at a Pennsylvania prison.

    The Compleat Musician: Teaching musicians to tell stories is worthy work, writes Tim Fitts, who leads classes in fiction writing and literature.

    Meet the Alumni: Celebrated pianist Lambert Orkis strives to transport listeners each time he plays.

  • Meet the Faculty: Mary Javian’s diverse musical outlook sets the tone as Curtis seeks to nurture social engagement in its young musicians. (p. 6)

    Meet the Students: Mezzo-soprano Anastasiia Sidorova set her sights on the stage as a child in Russia; her debut came at Curtis.  (p. 9)

    A Commitment to Young Conductors: Curtis conducting fellows are flourishing under the mentorship of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Yannick Nézet-Séguin. (p. 12)

    “It’s All About Listening”: In November, performers and audiences experienced six Mozart quartets in two recitals on one memorable day. (p. 17)

    Inspiration, In Person: Composers in residence motivate Curtis’s student performers and creators in new and exciting directions. (p. 22)

    First Person: Writing from personal experience, Thomas Oltarzewski reflects on Lenfest Hall’s first five years. (p. 26)

    The Compleat Musician: Studying existentialism offers insights into the present era, writes James Moyer. (p. 29)

    Meet the Alumni: Alumni entrepreneurship grants honor projects embodying innovation, community engagement, and creative artistry. (p. 31)

  • In Memoriam: We reflect on the life of Otto-Werner Mueller, maestro and mentor. (p. 6)

    Meet the Faculty: Jason Vieaux plays and teaches across genres and traditions. (p. 7)

    Meet the Students: Steven Franklin embodies the collaborative, connecting mindset of a 21st-century musician.  (p. 11)

    The Compleat Musician: The required Presentation and Oral Practice course turns exceptional musicians into confident public speakers. (p. 13)

    Con Bravura: We honor Nina Baroness von Maltzahn’s tireless energy and leadership. (p. 15)

    Darmstadt and Beyond: The music of the Darmstadt school often provokes strong reactions, but to reject this music outright is to ignore its great importance in the long narrative of music history. (p. 18)

    A Personal Investment: Alumni of the Curtis vocal studies program reflect on their studies with Mikael Eliasen. (p. 22)

    First Person: An ArtistYear fellow offers music to soothe suffering, and recieves a priceless present in return. (p. 26)

    Meet the Alumni: Karina Canellakis (Violin ’04) has become a compelling presence on the podium. (p. 28)

  • Meet the Students: Having grown up at Curtis. Daniel Hsu’s time has come. (p. 7)

    Meet the Faculty: Curtis double bassists develop their varied strengths under the generous and firm guidance of Hal Robinson. (p. 10)

    Alumni Homecoming: Curtis hosted graduates from the 1930s to the 2010s at a September reunion.  (p. 13)

    Sinfonia Diary: Presenting Luciano Berio’s whirling tour-de-force was a six-month team effort. Coaches and performers reflect on the journey. (p. 16)

    “A Near-Utopian Community…”: An archival exhibit focuses on student life through the decades. (p. 22)

    The Compleat Musician: Liberal arts faculty member Caroline Meline considers teaching philosophy in the conservatory. (p. 27)

    First Person: Curtis viola graduate Jessica Chang weaves a fulfilling artistic life from multiple strands. (p. 28)

    Meet the Alumni: For organ virtuoso Paul Jacobs, advocacy and artistry go hand in hand. (p. 31)

  • Bold Intentions: From the heart of Curtis, a new strategic direction emerges to propel the school toward its 2024 centenary

    Darmstadt: Designing Curtis’s latest All-School Project

    The Divine Tone: Don Liuzzi inspires his timpani and percussion students to translate ideas into music.

    First Person: ArtistYear Fellow Wade Coufal reflects on opening the world of music to young hospital patients.

    Compleat Musician: Catalogue of Virtues—Overtones looks at the 1924–25 Catalogue.

  • Then and Now: Celebrating Curtis’s 90th-anniversary year with a look back at the school’s storied history

    Meet the Alumni: For Yuja Wang (Piano ’08), each return to Philadelphia sparks warm memories of Curtis.

    Asian Adventure: Connections created and renewed during Curtis On Tour’s Fall journey

    Meet the Faculty: Richard Woodhams transmits a cherished tradition to his oboe students.

    First Person: Viola graduate Ren Martin-Doike benefits from a lifetime of accumulated wisdom, courtesy of longtime faculty member Joseph de Pasquale.

    Meet the Students: Composition student Rene Orth takes on two opera assignments—and triumphs.

  • Cover Story: How Curtis became an incubator for great American string quartet players

    Tour Tales: Curtis On Tour shifts into overdrive, and students experience accelerated growth.

    Make a Difference: One young artist’s approach to making music in the 21st century

    First Person: The program director of Curtis Summerfest’s Young Artist Summer Program reflects on its advantages for high school-aged musicians.

    Meet the Alumni: Through Play On Philly, Stanford Thompson offers a new path to budding musicians.

  • Cover Story: Violinist Ida Kavafian tailors her teaching approach to every student.

    The Compleat Musician: Behind the scenes at Curtis, the Rock Resource Center is a crucial center of activity and study.

    Where Ecosystems Meet: Percussionist Ted Babcock explores the interaction between electronic and acoustic music.

    First Person: Curtis’s first conducting fellow, Kensho Watanabe, learns from an eminent mentor—Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

    Creating Cold Mountain: Student singers help to shape a major modern opera by Jennifer Higdon.

    Conspicuously Curtis: The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Philadelphia Commissions micro-festival puts Curtis talent center stage.

    Foreign Correspondence: Curtis travels to the land of revolutions and orthodoxy, icons, and samovars, to examine the vast musical culture of Russia and Eastern Europe.

  • Cover Story Beethoven, Unlimited: Can the Internet open up classical music to a wider audience? Piano faculty member Jonathan Biss reflects on his Coursera class, Exploring the Beethoven Piano Sonatas.

    The New Curtis Curriculum: A strategic review of the Curtis curriculum transforms classroom learning. Paul Bryan leads a tour.

    Meet the Faculty: Musical studies chair Jonathan Coopersmith lends wit and clarity to rigorous classes, writes Dave Allen.

    Meet the Students: Cellist Arlen Hlusko discovers a Schoenberg masterwork and much more. Matthew Barker reports.

  • Cover Story: The Curtis Opera Theatre gives students professional-level experiences and polish, plus a degree of versatility unusual for young singers.

    Before the WarLIFE magazine visited Curtis to photograph daily life in 1938.

    Birds of a Feather: In its groundbreaking three-year residency at Curtis, the leading new-music ensemble eighth blackbird is providing a model for students to follow.

    Ears Wide Open: Violinist Nigel Armstrong explores every musical opportunity.

    Message from the President: Point of Departure

  • Cover story: Postcards from Dresden

    Lessons in Leadership: The new Community Artists Program lets students drive innovation.

    The Mueller Touch: Curtis’s legendary maestro remains a towering influence.

    Message from the President: Playing to the World

  • Musical Marathon: Curtis On Tour goes to Asia.

    In the Hall: Memories of Field Concert Hall unite generations of alumni.

    Meet the Students: Guitarists bring a fresh sound to Curtis.

  • Celebrate Appassionato! An exceptional year for an extraordinary school

    Room to Grow: Lenfest Hall

  • Six Strings Seek Classical Stature: Curtis’s first classical guitarists enroll in Fall 2011.

    Tracing Curtis Traditions: Curtis’s rich heritage has deeper roots than you may realize.

    From the Heart: For a quarter century, Mikael Eliasen has guided Curtis singers.

  • Commencement 2010: “We’re never really done with Curtis.”

    Curtis Opera Theatre: A 1980s ‘Do for The Barber of Seville

  • Message from the President: Keeping current

    A Kaleidoscope of Knowledge and Expertise: Curtis performance faculty offer an array of opportunities to a new generation.

    Meet the Alumni:  Matthew Rose (Opera ’03) journeys between continuity and reinvention.