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Curtis Graduates Bring Arts Access and Education to Philadelphia Communities Through Community Artist Fellowships

2019–20 Partner Organizations Include Penn Memory Center, Phoenix prison, Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, and School District of Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, PA—September 24, 2019— Three recent graduates of the Curtis Institute of Music are making an impact in the community this season by bringing arts access and education to underserved populations in Philadelphia through the school’s Community Artist Fellowships. Abigail Fayette, Marlène Ngalissamy, and Hanul Park will work with Penn Memory Center, Phoenix prison, three Philadelphia public schools, Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, and other community partners. Throughout their year of service, each fellow will take leadership of a specific project and participate in the work managed by the other fellows, while continuing their vital performance careers.

Community Artist Fellow Marlène Ngalissamy (Bassoon ’19) will manage projects at the Penn Memory Center, where the fellows will teach weekly classes for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers, exploring the effects of music-making on cognitive facility and quality of life and providing opportunities for social interactions.

Hanul Park (Bassoon ’18) will work closely with Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission and other organizations serving the homeless population to create interactive musical performances. Ms. Park’s service is part of Curtis’s sustained activities with groups that provide for the emotional and physical needs of homeless and disadvantaged people in the Philadelphia area, bringing music to a significant percentage of Center City’s homeless population. 

Abigail Fayette (Violin ’17) will manage a teaching effort in three Philadelphia public schools, providing 30 promising student instrumentalists with twice-weekly coaching and mentoring focused on effective practice, as well as access to Curtis performances and the opportunity to perform in recital at Curtis in Spring 2020. This mentorship program continues to build on the success of past fellows’ involvement at the William Cramp School (which has reintroduced a string program to elementary-level students) and South Philadelphia High School (which has invested in a full-time music teacher and is committed to using the arts to accomplish its goals). In 2019–20 the fellows will work with students at George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science, William H. Hunter Elementary School, and Cayuga Elementary School.

In a related effort that is new in the 2019–20 school year, Curtis will collaborate with the School District of Philadelphia to provide additional mentorship and professional development and strengthen existing instrumental education programs. Three music teachers from the participating schools will receive one-on-one mentoring from Mary Javian, chair of career studies at Curtis, and regular sessions in musical and entrepreneurial skills from other Curtis faculty.

Additionally, all three fellows will assist with music-making at Phoenix prison outside Philadelphia, under the supervision of former Community Artist Fellow Emily Cooley (Composition ’17). Ms. Cooley has led songwriting workshops for prison populations since October 2016 and will lead a weekly music class at the new Phoenix facility as adjunct faculty for Villanova University.

All the fellows will also be assisted by students taking Curtis’s Social Entrepreneur course. Part of Curtis’s artist-citizen curriculum, the Social Entrepreneur course is required of all students in the bachelor’s program, teaching them to create and sustain social value through faculty-led, community-based service opportunities.

Community-Based Projects and the Artist-Citizen Curriculum at Curtis

The most inspiring professional musicians of today conceive and realize projects rooted in their art, and understand how to engage audiences of all kinds, deeply and fully. At the Curtis Institute of Music, students develop these skills by leading community-based projects that meaningfully affect the lives of others. In the process they become artist-citizens who are committed to deploying their world-class artistry to engage audiences and transform lives.

This work is embedded in the very mission of Curtis—to educate and train exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry—and in the school’s celebrated “learn by doing” culture. Community-based projects are an essential part of a Curtis education, informing students’ development as artists, citizens, and advocates, and empowering them to invent careers with impact after their graduation.

Community engagement has been part of the Curtis student experience since 1998. In 2014 the school launched a new artist-citizen curriculum to equip students with the essential skills they will need as musicians in the 21st century. At each stage of this curriculum—the Social Entrepreneur course, the Community Artist Program, and the Community Artist Fellowship—Curtis students work with their peers and community partners in Philadelphia to provide rich artistic experiences through performance.

In a typical school year, Curtis musicians reach more than 1,500 members of the community—students and schoolchildren, hospital patients and hospice residents, the homeless, prison inmates, and more—through social entrepreneurship and community artist programs with community partners including Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Play On, Philly!, Broad Street Ministry, and others.

More information can be found at Curtis.edu/Community.


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