Alumni Stories

Get to know your fellow alumni beyond their Notations in Overtones! Curtis continues our series of mini-profiles designed to dig deeper into the Curtis alumni experience.

Visit the Curtis news page for the most current alumni activities from press around the world.

Share Your Story With Us! Curtis is always looking to share stories about our alumni.

  • Tell your story in your own words on social media—tag @CurtisInstitute and #CurtisAlumni and we’ll reshare it with our audiences.
  • Submit Notations year-round online. Tell us your professional or personal news, and share your “Why Choose Curtis” story to inspire the next generation of aspiring musicians.

Alumnus Profile: Joshua Halpern

Award-winning cellist and Curtis alumnus Joshua Halpern (’19) has appeared on international stages as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral principal cellist. As a chamber musician, he has collaborated with artists including Jonathan Biss (Piano ’01), Anthony Roth Costanzo, Roberto Díaz (Viola ’84), Anthony McGill (Clarinet ’00), and Itzhak Perlman. The contemporary music advocate and founder of Cultural Caravan, a Colorado-based organization operating at the intersection of small businesses, social-service nonprofits, and local artists, discusses the inspiring journey to bring his dynamic nonprofit to life and the impact of Curtis’s Young Alumni Fund on its continued growth. He shares his experiences playing cello as a member of the Berliner Philharmoniker, talks about the importance of community engagement and collaborative programming, and fondly recalls his time here at Curtis.

Alumna Profile: Catherine Van Handel

Hailed by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “assured and startlingly lyrical, [her solo] signaled an orchestra-wide philosophy” and praised by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a “polished, warm sound, full of color and nuance,” Curtis alumna Catherine Van Handel (’15) has served as the principal bassoon of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, holding the Muriel C. and John D. Silbar Family Bassoon Chair, since 2017. The acclaimed bassoonist, educator, artist advocate, and 2022 recipient of Curtis’s Young Alumni Fund discusses her musical journey and her debut album.

Alumna Profile: Ashley Milanese

Lauded for her “soaring lyric soprano capable of heart-stopping soft effects” (Philadelphia Magazine) and praised by Opera Magazine as “beautifully voiced,” Italian-American Ashley Milanese (Voice ’15, Opera ’17, Opera ’18) has quickly emerged as an exciting young presence in the operatic world. A recipient of Curtis’s inaugural Young Alumni Fund, Ms. Milanese discusses her fond memories of studying at the school and her love for contemporary works. The New Orleans native and opera program coordinator for the National Children’s Chorus’s Vail Opera Camp offers inspiring advice about building a thriving voice studio while pursuing a successful career as an opera singer.

Alumnus Profile: Johnathan McCullough

GRAMMY-nominated baritone and director Johnathan McCullough (Voice ’14 and Opera ’16, ’17) discusses his critically acclaimed film adaptation of David T. Little’s powerful opera Soldier Songs, his role as Operatic Studies Director of the National Children’s Chorus, where he leads Vail Opera Camp, the development of his mental health seminar, and how Curtis has positively impacted his artistic growth, life, and career as an opera singer, educator, lecturer, and director.

Alumni Educator Profile: Margaret Batjer

Margaret Batjer (Violin ’80) has served as concertmaster of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) since 1998. She is renowned as a violin soloist, chamber musician, and teacher, and has established herself as a versatile and respected artist worldwide. Margaret joined the faculty of the USC Thornton School of Music in 2005 and the Colburn Academy in 2014, where she teaches violin and directs the Academy Virtuosi Ensemble.

Alumni Educator Profile: Anthea Kreston

In February 2020 Anthea Kreston (Violin ’93) was featured in the New York Times for coaching a young violin student via Skype during the initial period of coronavirus lockdown in China. The youngster is one of several students Anthea routinely teaches using video-chat platforms. Curtis spoke with this avid educator about teaching her online students.

Meet the Alumni: Jennifer Koh

Recognized for intense, commanding performances, delivered with dazzling virtuosity and technical assurance, Jennifer Koh (Violin ’02) is a forward-thinking artist dedicated to exploring a broad and eclectic repertoire, while promoting diversity and inclusivity in classical  music. She has expanded the contemporary violin repertoire through a wide range of commissioning projects, and has premiered more than 70 works written especially for her.

Alumni Educator Profile: Rhoslyn Jones

Soprano Rhoslyn Jones (Opera ’06) is a sought-after vocalist across the United States and Canada, Career highlights include roles such as the Countess (Le nozze di Figaro), Musetta (La bohéme) and Tatyana (Eugene Onegin) for Opera Santa Barbara, Chicago Opera Theater, and the San Francisco, Arizona, Vancouver, and Pittsburgh operas; and concert appearances with numerous orchestras. She was a member of the Adler Fellowship Program at San Francisco Opera and has attended Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute and the Merola Opera Program. Rhoslyn is a gifted educator and was recently appointed to the faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Meet the Alumni: Rene Orth

Rene Orth (Composition ’16) recently served as Opera Philadelphia’s sixth composer in residence. Her work has been performed by opera companies and orchestras around the world, including the Berkeley Symphony, the Louisville Orchestra, Festival d’Aix en Provence, Fort Worth Opera, and Washington National Opera.

Rene’s first opera, Empty the House, was premiered in the Curtis Opera Studio in 2016, and was expanded as part of a double bill production, performed by the Curtis Opera Theatre in partnership with Opera Philadelphia and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in May 2019.

Alumni Donor Profile: Sandra Miller

Sandra Miller (Flute ’72) is a faculty member at the Juilliard School, specializing in baroque flute and chamber music. A winner of the Concert Artists Guild Competition and the Erwin Bodky Competition for Early Music, and the recipient of a Solo Recitalist’s Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Sandra is frequently invited to perform and record with many well-known period-instrument ensembles, including the American Classical Orchestra, the Trinity (Wall Street) Baroque Orchestra, Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, Tafelmusik, and American Bach Soloists.

William Short (Bassoon ’10) spoke with Sandra about the ways her experiences at Curtis continue to shape her life and career today.

Meet the Alumni: Dover Quartet

As the first string quartet in residence at Curtis and an increasingly sought-after international chamber ensemble, the Dover Quartet is reaching new heights with their music. Listen to the quartet perform the Complete Beethoven Quartet cycle and more on their artist page.

Meet the Alumni: Paul Bryan

In 2018 Curtis launched a series of mini-profiles and interviews designed to dig deeper into the Curtis alumni experience. To kick things off, William Short (Bassoon ’10), former Alumni Network Executive Committee member and Curtis Storytellers project leader, shared this interview with Curtis Dean Paul Bryan (Trombone ’93), who also continues to teach and perform as a trombonist and conductor.