Why Choose Curtis?

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.


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), soprano, Curtis alumna


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, L. Daniel Dannenbaum Fellow
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, principal cello of the New York Philharmonic, Nina and Billy Albert Chair in Cello Studies.
—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, Albert M. Greenfield Fellow


—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 National Symphony principal keyboard
Danielle Orlando, Curtis faculty, principal opera coach “There are so many reasons, starting with Mikael [Eliasen, who heads the vocal studies department]: 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.
—Danielle Orlando, Curtis faculty, principal opera coach
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
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, 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, Richard A. Doran Fellow, 2017 Van Cliburn Competition Bronze Medal, 2015 Gilmore Young Artist Award, 2015 Concert Artists Guild Competition winner
Rinat Shaham 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


Hal Robinson “Here at Curtis, there’s no dogma. ... 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
Gergana "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

Alumni Are Here

In addition to prominent solo careers, many Curtis alumni have gone on to positions in major orchestras, opera companies, chamber ensembles; hold teaching positions at renowned educational institutions; work with important community outreach organizations; and more. Below, explore a selection of notable organizations that Curtis alumni call home, or view more detailed information on student outcomes.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra 7% Curtis alumni, 4 principal chairs held by alumni
Houston Symphony 8%, 4 principals
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra 10%, 5 principals, music director Robert Spano
Dallas Symphony Orchestra 11%, 5 principals
Seattle Symphony 13%, 4 principals
National Symphony Orchestra 14%, 3 principals
Boston Symphony Orchestra 17%, 4 principals
New York Philharmonic 18%, 4 principals, music director Alan Gilbert
Minnesota Orchestra 19%, 5 principals
Pittsburgh Symphony 19%, 5 principals
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra 30%, 3 principals
Philadelphia Orchestra

45%, 4 principals