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Curtis Operations Updates on COVID-19

Read updates on the status of the Curtis Institute’s operations and answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Dear friends of Curtis,

The Curtis community joins me in sending heartfelt wishes that each of you and your families are safe and healthy during these unprecedented times.

Just weeks ago, none of us could have imagined that our semester and lives would unfold in this way. At Curtis we continue to prioritize the safety of our community, as well as the education and well-being of our students. And we are, of course, committed to keeping the music going—if only virtually.

As the global pandemic continues to bring uncertainty to our daily lives, I wanted to update you on the status of the Curtis Institute’s operations and how our students, faculty, and staff are faring.

While Curtis had already decided to suspend classes and performances indefinitely, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf declared last Thursday that all non-life-sustaining businesses must close their physical locations, with enforcement actions beginning Saturday, March 21. I am heartened to say that, with a great deal of camaraderie, Curtis staff began working remotely on Monday, March 16 and is in complete compliance with the governor’s declaration.

Fortunately, we are able to continue educating our students, even if we cannot present public performances. As you might remember, we extended spring break by a week, giving the staff time to prepare for a shift to distance education. Our technological capacity has made it possible to provide our faculty with the tools and support to teach lessons and conduct group classes online, beginning this week.

Before I provide responses, below, to Frequently Asked Questions about the status of Curtis and its community, I wanted to take this moment to again send you my very best wishes for the health and well-being of you and your families. Please take care of yourselves, and each other.



Where are the students and how are they doing?

Curtis has been working diligently to make it possible for all students to return home. The school is also supporting those Lenfest Hall residents who can’t travel due to restrictions or safety concerns by placing them in Curtis-subsidized, off-campus housing. We will continue to monitor the U.S. Department of State’s March 19 Level 4 Health Advisory warning all U.S. citizens to avoid international travel and its potential effect on our students.

How will lessons and classes be taught?

Performance faculty are continuing to teach private lessons via various video-conferencing platforms. Curtis is making individual Zoom accounts available for each teacher through the school’s institutional membership. There will be NO in-person teaching for the foreseeable future, but the video conferencing option works very well for real-time interaction. Some of our faculty are even continuing studio performance classes, with all of their students logging in, simultaneously, from their various locations.

Most academic courses will continue using various online formats, particularly Canvas —a learning management system. This is a new system to Curtis which we were just rolling out this semester; however, the faculty has been incredibly flexible and willing to jump right in. The U.S. Department of Education has shared that their primary expectation (and, therefore, ours) is regular and substantive communication between teachers and students. All students can expect regular feedback and guidance from faculty regarding course projects, essays, and exams.

What is the status of upcoming live performances?

While we had already anticipated the possibility that we might not be able to present live performances in the time ahead, Governor Wolf’s recent declaration makes it necessary for us to cancel all remaining public performances for the semester. This is a very disappointing circumstance given that live performance is central to the school’s mission.

We have already contacted visiting artists for the 20/21 Ensemble concert (April 4), Curtis Presents recital (April 11), Curtis Symphony Orchestra concert (April 25 and 26), and the Curtis Opera Theatre’s production of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito (April 30– May 3). Following this message today, members of the advancement team will be reaching out to ticket holders with instructions on how to exchange them for future performances or donate the value of the tickets to the school. Any questions you have about your tickets should be sent to tickets@curtis.edu.

What is the status of the May 14, 2020 Legacy of Strings gala?

Governor Wolf’s declaration will make it necessary to cancel or postpone the gala. We are extremely grateful for the pre-sale response to the gala. In the time ahead, Curtis will be reaching out with further information to the generous donors who have already made commitments to the gala. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about the gala, please write to Derrick T. Smith, senior director of development, at derrick.smith@curtis.edu.

What is the status of Summerfest?

On Friday we informed our Chamber Music for Adults participants that the program—scheduled to take place from May 19–23—has been cancelled for this year. This decision to cancel was not made lightly, as this cherished program is important to our community. We continue to review the viability of holding our June and July Summerfest programs as scheduled.

Are there other ways to enjoy Curtis during this period?

Although we are not able to present live performances at this time, we hope you will visit our YouTube channel (Curtis.edu/YouTube), where we will be sharing recordings from our extensive archive, from highlights to full concerts.


I know that many of you have been concerned for our students and for Curtis during these uncertain times. I hope this update alleviates some of your concerns and assures you that we are working hard to ensure that our entire Curtis family continues to thrive physically and musically. Look for additional updates from Curtis from time to time and please reach out to us at advancement@curtis.edu if you have any questions.

Thank you for everything you do for Curtis. We look forward to celebrating music with you in person once again as soon as possible.


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Roberto Díaz
President and CEO