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Michelle Cann Named Inaugural Eleanor Sokoloff Chair in Piano Studies at the Curtis Institute of Music

Ms. Cann, an accomplished soloist and educator, assumes new role honoring late piano faculty member

Michelle CannPHILADELPHIA—November 17, 2020—The Curtis Institute of Music announces that Michelle Cann will join its faculty as the inaugural Eleanor Sokoloff Chair in Piano Studies, effective immediately. Ms. Cann, a 2013 graduate of the institution, will hold a new named chair created in honor of pianist Eleanor Sokoloff, who passed away in July 2020 after serving on Curtis’s faculty for 84 years.

Lauded as “a compelling, sparkling virtuoso” (Boston Music Intelligencer), Ms. Cann is in-demand as a soloist, recitalist, and music educator. She enjoys a long relationship with Curtis, first as a student and Community Artist fellow, and most recently as a collaborative staff pianist.

“Curtis has been my second home since I enrolled in 2010,” says Ms. Cann, who holds an Artist’s Diploma from the school. “A decade later I am honored to continue my connection to this great institution as a member of the piano faculty. I have learned a lot throughout my life about the importance of mentorship and the value of being a musician citizen with meaningful relationships to our communities. I am excited to mentor the students who I work with, inspiring them to shape careers for themselves that will encompass all they have to offer as musicians while connecting with audiences in an impactful way.”

Ms. Cann, who is based in Philadelphia, will work with Curtis students in individual lessons as well as chamber coachings, utilizing remote instruction while the school operates online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She will be among a renowned roster of performers, pedagogues, and artist-citizens teaching at Curtis, including Robert McDonald, with whom Ms. Cann previously studied.

“Michelle Cann is a musician and pianist of exceptional integrity and skill,” says Mr. McDonald, the Penelope P. Watkins Chair in Piano Studies. “Her outstanding gifts as a performer and the degree of dedication, vision, and experience she offers as an educator will make her a much-valued addition to the piano department at Curtis. She is a wonderful example of what it means to be a vital, fully engaged citizen of our profession and, as such, a role model for aspiring pianists to both admire and emulate.”



The Eleanor Sokoloff Chair in Piano Studies honors the memory of the school’s longest serving faculty member, the esteemed Eleanor Sokoloff, who passed away on July 12, 2020 at the age of 106. Mrs. Sokoloff graduated from Curtis in 1938 and educated generations of piano students during her 84 years on the faculty. Known as an “institution within the institution,” Mrs. Sokoloff was an integral part of the entire school and a personification of venerable tradition, excellence, and dynamism. The new chair, to be held in perpetuity only by an exceptionally gifted and forward-thinking female pianist, is made possible through the generous leadership support of alumnus William A. Horn, M.D. (Piano ’70) and the Sokoloff family and was created to fulfill Mrs. Sokoloff’s desire to see more women added to the Curtis faculty.

“We are humbled by the generosity and vision that allows for the creation of this chair,” says President and CEO Roberto Díaz. “Eleanor’s incredible years of enthusiastic teaching will not, nor should not, be soon forgotten. This new position extends her important legacy by ensuring that women have a prominent place among our faculty and I am excited for Michelle to share her immense talents and musical voice with our students for years to come.”

Pianist Michelle Cann made her orchestral debut at age fourteen and has since performed with various ensembles including the Florida Orchestra and the New Jersey, Cleveland Institute of Music, and Sphinx symphony orchestras. She has appeared as guest soloist with the Knoxville Symphony and The Dream Unfinished orchestra and will perform with The Philadelphia Orchestra in its debut of Florence Price’s Concerto in One Movement in early 2021.

Ms. Cann regularly appears in recital and as a chamber musician throughout the U.S., China, and South Korea. Notable venues include the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and the Bermuda Festival; and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Barbican in London with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Ms. Cann has won top prizes in state, national, and international competitions including the International Russian Music Piano Competition, the Blount Slawson Young Artists Competition, and the Wideman International Piano Competition. In 2019 she served as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s MAC Music Innovator in recognition of her role as an African-American classical musician who embodies artistry, innovation, and a commitment to education and community engagement.

Ms. Cann has appeared as cohost and collaborative pianist with NPR’s From The Top and has been featured on WRTI and WHYY-TV in Philadelphia. Her summer festival appearances include the Taos Chamber Music Festival, Yellow Barn, Perlman Music Program, and Pianofest in the Hamptons, where she served as artist in residence.

Ms. Cann has served as the director of two children’s choruses in the El Sistema-inspired program Play On Philly and was among the first class of Community Artist fellows at the Curtis Institute of Music. She served on the faculty of the Sphinx Performance Academy during its inaugural year at the Julliard School.

Ms. Cann holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Paul Schenly and Daniel Shapiro, and an Artist’s Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Robert McDonald.

The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry. For nearly a century Curtis has provided each member of its small student body with an unparalleled education alongside musical peers, distinguished by a “learn by doing” philosophy and personalized attention from a faculty that includes a high proportion of actively performing musicians. To ensure that admissions are based solely on artistic promise, Curtis makes an investment in each admitted student so that no tuition is charged for their studies. In a typical year, Curtis students hone their craft through more than 200 orchestra, opera, and solo and chamber music offerings in Philadelphia and around the world.


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