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Commencement: Curtis Celebrates the Class of 2021

Degrees, diplomas, and special prizes awarded to nineteen graduates in online ceremony

On Saturday, May 22, Curtis awarded degrees, diplomas, and special prizes to the nineteen graduates of the class of 2021. The ceremony was held online and shared with graduates, families, and well-wishers in all corners of the globe. Though recorded remotely, the ceremony was full of hope for a return to normalcy, while acknowledging the positive changes and adaptations that will remain after the pandemic subsides. 

“I am in complete awe of you, our graduating class, for all that you have accomplished and overcome this year. You are entering this next phase in your lives stronger and more resilient than ever before.”
—President Roberto Díaz

President Roberto Díaz and Dean Paul Bryan presided over the ceremony, and speakers, including classmates Frankie Carr (Cello) and Elizabeth Younan (Composition), addressed the graduates through pre-recorded videos.

Scroll below the class photo for highlights of the Commencement ceremony.

Curtis Class of 2021

View full program book (PDF)


Musical Offerings

Alumna Ahreum Han (Organ ’07) provided the prelude, interlude, and postlude of the ceremony. The interlude was Mouvement by Jean Berveiller—Ms. Han’s fancy footwork certainly lives up to the name.


For the postlude she performed Toccata, from Symphony for Organ No. 5 in F minor, Op. 42, No. 1 by Charles-Marie Widor, a celebratory and grand selection which has often provided the appropriate pomp to Curtis celebrations throughout the years.


Alumni Address

Soprano Karen Slack (Opera ’02), acclaimed for her roles in opera, recitals, and online conversations, welcomed the new class of alumni to an “international community” and assured them they have it in themselves to make a difference.

“The next few years will be unpredictable, and as an industry we will be challenged on every front, whether economic or in our constant fight for equity around race, class, and gender in classical music ... But I’m here to tell you that you have everything inside of you to succeed. You possess everything you need to thrive and make this art form better for all of us. Be intentional, be consistent, and most importantly, be kind to yourself and those with whom you share space. Stay committed to your craft and remember to always make music from the heart.”


Student Speakers

Frankie Carr (Cello)

“When it comes down to it, we are all responsible for our own education. It really doesn’t matter how old we are or what instrument we play, or whether we play an instrument at all. As individuals it is our own responsibility. In my opinion, the best schools are the ones that give their students the space and support, the freedom and the structure, to realize this and act on it…it’s part of life at Curtis in a very profound way, and I am so grateful I was able to transfer here to finish my degree.”


Elizabeth Younan (Composition)

“I believe that one of the most foundational goals of a musician is to communicate with people. To know that our music has spoken to someone on a personal or spiritual level is, to me at least, the ultimate gift ... Above all, do not forget that music has the capacity to offer the world joy as we focus not on the manmade boundaries which divide and separate us, but rather the innately shared qualities which make us fragile, vulnerable, human. All we can do is continue to express and communicate as best as we can, as much as we can, as earnestly and devotedly as we can.”


Awards and Prizes

Joan Hutton Landis Award for Excellence in Academics
Julien Bélanger (Timpani and Percussion)

Edward Aldwell Award for Excellence in Musical Studies
Julien Bélanger (Timpani and Percussion)

Dean’s Award for Achievement in Career Studies
Grace Takeda (Viola)

Dean’s Award for Outstanding Citizenship
Hannah Klein (Voice)
Szuyu Su (Piano)

Charles Miller Prize: The Alfredo Casella Award
Elizabeth Younan (Composition)

Milka Violin Artist Prize
Emily Shehi (Violin)

Paul G. Mehlin Scholarship
Szuyu Su (Piano)

The Presser Foundation Undergraduate Scholar Award
Robert Conquer (Trombone)


Diplomas and Degrees

Post-Baccalaureate Diploma: 7
Bachelor of Music: 12