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Commencement: Curtis Celebrates the Class of 2020

Degrees, diplomas, and certificates awarded to 53 graduates

On Saturday, May 23, Curtis awarded degrees, diplomas, and certificates to 53 graduates in a special Commmencement ceremony held online due to the need for social distancing in the COVID-19 pandemic. Graduates, who completed their Curtis tenures with remote lessons and classes over the past two months, were honored in particular for their hard work and flexibility in these challenging times. “I’m so happy to celebrate this momentous occasion in our graduating students’ lives in this most unexpected way,” said President Roberto Díaz as he opened the proceedings. “Our collective resilience bodes very well for the future of our art, and for this I am incredibly humbled and grateful.” President Díaz and Dean Paul Bryan presided over the ceremony, and speakers addressed the graduates through videos pre-recorded in their homes. Likewise, graduates and their families viewed the ceremony via YouTube from around the globe. Here's a quick recap.

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

Class Photo: Curtis Class of 2020

Musical Offerings

From his home, organ faculty Alan Morrison (Organ ’91, Accompanying ’93) played a prelude by Bach to open the ceremony. His postlude was the Final from Vierne’s Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 59--a work written in memory of legendary organist Lynnwood Farnum, who served as Curtis’s first organ teacher from 1927 to 1930.

BACH: Allegro, from Organ Concerto in A minor, BWV 593


VIERNE: Final, from Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 59

An Alumnus Addresses the Graduates

In an inspiring message, Weston Sprott (Trombone ’05), dean of the Preparatory Division at the Juilliard School and trombonist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, encouraged the Class of 2020 to embrace the challenges of this time: "We are resilient people. We don’t bat an eye when the assignment is to spend hours a day, sometimes in solitude, finding creative solutions to complex problems. That’s what we do. If any group of people is capable of leading the way during this time, it’s this one."


Student Speakers

Kip Zimmerman (Oboe)
“Let us continue to open doors—to each other and, whenever possible, to new perspectives and modes of thinking.  Most importantly, let us open up ourselves to the trials, the pain, the fear, the ecstasy, and the blind journey forward.  This is the only way we might we have the hope of making truly great art.”

Cynthia Phillippi (Viola)
“Let’s emerge from this worldwide pause celebrating all parts of ourselves, all of what makes us who we are. This includes our musical endeavors and growth, but it’s okay to spend time and energy on other things, too: it’s what makes us complete people… Let’s take joy in the adventure of discovering who we are.”

Awards and Prizes

Joan Hutton Landis Award for Excellence in Academics
Tsutomu William Copeland (Violin)

Edward Aldwell Award for Excellence in Musical Studies
Tsutomu William Copeland (Violin) and Eric Tsai (Violin)

Charles Miller Prize: The Sergei Rachmaninoff Award
Eric Lu (Piano)

Milka Violin Artist Prize
Do Gyung Im (Violin)

Angelo Sylvestro Festorazzi Scholarship
Adam Kiss (Opera)

Paul G. Mehlin Scholarship
Jia-Cheng Xiong (Piano)

The Presser Foundation Undergraduate Scholar Award
Mekhi Gladden (Oboe)

Certificates, Degrees, and Diplomas
Diploma: 1
Post-Baccalaureate Diploma: 16
Bachelor of Music: 31
Master of Music in Opera: 2
Certificate of Professional Studies: 3