In today’s competitive musical world, gifted young musicians face a choice among several top-tier institutions. Talented students are often accepted to multiple conservatories or universities. Here, students, faculty, and alumni share their thoughts about what makes Curtis unique among conservatories.


Juan Diego Florez

[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

Carter Brey

What continuously impresses me is how supportive these young students are of each other. There’s a real esprit de corps. Peter (Wiley) and I do our best to maintain that, but I have to say it doesn’t take much effort on our part because the students do that. … They maintain their incredible self-motivation and striving for excellence while helping each other. They always show up to each other’s concerts. I have to think that’s very rare.”
—Carter Brey, Curtis faculty and principal cello of the New York Philharmonic

Karina Canellakis

“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.”
—Karina Canellakis (Violin ’04), Curtis alumna and fast-rising conductor, 2016 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award

Daniel Hsu

“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 and award-winning pianist, 2017 Van Cliburn Competition Bronze Medal, 2015 Gilmore Young Artist Award

Amanda Majeski

“Curtis is the best place for real-life vocal training. It’s hands-on learning by doing—weekly lessons, and working with brilliant pianists and diction coaches two, three times a day. The program is so small that Mikael Eliasen can tailor the opera season to the students he has, as opposed to the other way around. Curtis taught me everything about how to pace myself vocally, about stamina, how to work with directors and how to be a good colleague. When I left Curtis, I felt like I knew what I was doing, that I was absolutely prepared for everything vocally that lies ahead.

—Amanda Majeski (Opera '09), Curtis alumna and soprano with the Metropolitan Opera and other leading companies


Carlos Ágreda, conducting fellow

"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. Curtis gives us real-life opportunities to let us develop our conducting under the guidance of the best possible mentors.

—Carlos Ágreda, conducting fellow

 Jason Vieaux, Curtis faculty  and Grammy-winning guitarist

“The emphasis on chamber music is way ahead of the curve, and it is a rare thing for a guitarist to have the opportunity to perform regularly with such incredible young musicians in different disciplines. Plus, the way performances are set up puts the guitarist performing solo and chamber music regularly in front of appreciative audiences."

—Jason Vieaux, Curtis faculty  and Grammy-winning guitarist

—Braizahn Jones (Double Bass), Curtis student, Albert M. Greenfield Fellow “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.
—Braizahn Jones (Double Bass), Curtis student
—Lambert Orkis (Piano ’65), Curtis alumnus, concert pianist, and National Symphony principal keyboard “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!' The school’s location in Philadelphia is an added bonus. It’s a vibrant cultural city with a world-class resident orchestra. Having access to such wonderful music, both in school and in your city, is such a gift. You really learn what it means to be a musician that way.”
—Lambert Orkis (Piano ’65), Curtis alumnus, concert pianist, and principal keyboard of the National Symphony Orchestra
Héloïse Carlean-Jones “It’s the people that you meet, especially the students. You don’t meet musicians of this caliber anywhere else. I’ve learned so much from playing with them and even from just watching them practice. I had almost no chamber music experience before coming to Curtis, and in my first rehearsal, I could tell that the other students were thinking way beyond the notes on the page: about colors, about energy, and about how to transfer it from one player to the next. I thought, ‘I should be doing this, too!’ At Curtis, you find this common ground in order to play together, and you have tons of opportunities to perform and to learn.
—Héloïse Carlean-Jones (Harp), Curtis student