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How Does It Feel to Return to Campus?

After seventeen months apart, Curtis students, faculty, and staff share their reactions upon returning to in-person activities this fall

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I distinctly remember my first day in Philadelphia and being surrounded by scenes of joyful reunion throughout Lenfest Hall. After a year of being isolated from others, once-benign interactions with other students, faculty, and staff felt like a gift. I look forward to participating in live lessons, rehearsals, and performances with a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation. 

—Simon Bakos, Second-year clarinet student

(Pictured: The Curtis Symphony Orchestra rehearses in Gould Rehearsal Hall for the first time since March 2020)



It was a strange feeling coming back to Philadelphia, like I was entering a foreign place, yet also like coming home. We had all been anticipating this moment for a year and a half, so it was definitely surreal to be stepping into Lenfest again. It has been wonderful to reconnect with old friends as well as finally meet two new classes of Curtis students. Although so much has changed since we were last here, I’m hoping we can use this experience to propel forwards and continue to bring music to those that need it now more than ever.

—Karisa Chiu, Fifth-year violin student

(Pictured: Orientation leaders welcome residents back to Lenfest Hall on move-in day)



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Once students started moving into Lenfest Hall and their off-campus apartments, it finally started to feel alive again in the halls of Lenfest. It was great to see everyone back again and hear music coming from all over the building. Our students truly are the heartbeat of our campus ... The Office of Residence Life has a number of programs and events planned that will bring folx back together again, so I’m just looking forward to seeing everyone have a great and fun time safely and enjoy their time at Curtis and Lenfest Hall.  

—Steven Couras, Associate Dean of Residence Life and Off-Campus Housing 

(Pictured: Returning students gather on the Dannenbaum Terrace during orientation)



To study here in the U.S. has always been a dream of mine since I started my singing training. The fact that I am now here at Curtis with the most wonderful and talented colleagues, not to mention world-class coaches and teachers, is still very overwhelming for me. It’s a wonderful feeling to be on campus, singing (in the same room!) to my peers and experiencing everything that Philadelphia has to offer. I am so excited about the projects we have this semester, including a double bill designed entirely for film, which I’m sure will be a new experience for a lot of us. 

—Laurence Kilsby, First-year opera student (pictured)



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As much as I love a quiet library, these halls were never meant to house silence or absence—of people or their music. It is currently the third week of classes and restored sounds remain bittersweet: students woodshedding excerpts, exchanging thoughts around the latest class assignment or gossip, faculty lecturing. Orchestra finally reconvenes on Thursday and it will be emotional. I have missed sharing space with the waves, oscillations, and energy generated by collective exploration and expression. Also, I eagerly await the day we see the lower half of everyone's faces together again.

—Elaine Li, Orchestra Librarian

(Pictured: The orchestra library decorated for the start of the new school year)



When I first came to Lenfest for New Student Orientation, I had to suppress the urge to hug everyone from the security staff and other colleagues to the new and returning students. It was so exciting to sit with students in Gould and talk about the future, one that included in-person classes, rehearsals, and performances! That first day I saw a returning student in the cafeteria who had a fabulous idea for bringing students together to improvise and play multiple styles of music. It was like someone had flipped a switch and we were able to dream again. I’m excited for Midori to visit my entrepreneurship class this week and to work with the students and Community Artist Fellows on Drexel’s campus with composer Ari Benjamin Meyers.  

—Mary Javian, Chair of Career Studies

(Pictured: New students enjoy lunch together on campus)



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Although I spent some time on campus teaching a hybrid course last year, the return to the classroom in the fall felt like a real homecoming. Hearing music coming out of different rooms and simply walking into a space filled with others sparked a renewed energy to practice my craft. Within classes, it amazes me how much more natural the teaching process feels. All of the subtlety lost over Zoom is available again, allowing for more intense conversations and greater development within lessons. I’m most excited to return to the concert hall to hear and play again. The collaborative spirit of music is one of the most engaging for me; seeing this brought to life in-person again will certainly continue to motivate and inspire.

—Thomas Weaver, Faculty (Core Studies, Keyboard Studies, Supplementary Piano)

(Pictured: The annual President’s Picnic kicks off the year in Rittenhouse Square)