Commencement: Curtis Celebrates the Class of 2022

First in-person ceremony in three years celebrated graduates from 2020, 2021, and 2022

On Saturday, May 14, Curtis awarded degrees, diplomas, certificates, and special prizes to the 62 graduates of the class of 2022. Following two years of remote ceremonies, this year’s Commencement was held in person at The Church of the Holy Trinity in Rittenhouse Square. Prior graduates from ’20 and ’21, who attended virtual ceremonies due to the ongoing pandemic, were invited to receive their diplomas and enjoy the festivities with family and friends, alongside their fellow students.

“I encourage you to find someone that you can help, musically or in any other way. When things are as difficult as the days we live in, I think an act of generosity in life is even more important. The support we can give each other, the fact that you will be each other’s colleagues forever. I work now at Curtis with many of my colleagues when I was at school, and I think that this is a really wonderful thing that we don’t always think about.

“Some of you will create music festivals, some of you will have careers sponsoring performances, and you will invite your Curtis friends to participate and they will invite you back to opportunities that they have created. Then that’s how we help each other and we help others. Start teaching as soon as you can, even if it’s just one young person. It will give you more than you can ever imagine. It’s not about what do for ourselves, it’s about what we do for others.”
President and CEO Roberto Díaz

Mr. Díaz and Dean Paul Bryan presided over the ceremony, and speakers, including award-winning composer Tania León and graduating harp student Claire Thai, addressed the attendees within the walls of this remarkable 163-year-old Episcopal church. Both Tania León and legendary pianist Ruth Slenczynska received honorary Doctor of Music degrees for their contributions to music and to Curtis.

View the program book (PDF)

Musical Offerings

Thomas Sheehan (Organ ’14), Organist and Associate Director of Music at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., provided the ceremony’s prelude, interlude, and postlude, opening the ceremony with the architecturally-inspired Monument by composer Brenda Portman, followed by Cycle of Processionals by Curtis alumnus David N. Johnson (Organ ’42)

For the interlude, Mr. Sheehan played Trevor Weston’s Variations on a Theme by Ellie and brought the ceremony to a close with a rousing performance of Carson Cooman’s Toccata Festiva, Op. 921, which beautifully draws upon the tradition of late-Romantic French organ toccatas with an American harmonic palette.

View the Commencement video

Student Speaker

Harpist and composer Claire Thai, recipient of a Lyon & Healy Award in 2019 and first prize winner at the International Portuguese Harp Competition and the International Young Artists’ Harp Competition, welcomed the new class of alumni, recounting her excitement upon acceptance to Curtis and immense growth as a student and an artist.

“By simply listening to my colleagues, I had to blend like a woodwind player, I learned to sing out the melody like a violinist, I learned to keep time like a percussionist, and to provide a solid foundation like the low brass. I’ve learned to have the warmth of the celli, the attention to detail of a pianist, and the fluidity and confidence of a vocalist.

“More importantly, I’ve learned to lose with grace, I’ve learned to win with humility, to communicate quickly, and to stand up for myself and others. I have learned the importance of not grinding away in a practice room for the majority of my life, but of actually living. Of having unique experiences that allow me to say something meaningful as an artist.

“I’m not saying we should never practice. We must, of course, work hard at our instruments, but anyone who goes to Curtis already knows how to do that. We should never allow that work to get in the way of living exciting, full, diverse lives … going forward, I know that the Curtis community will continue to inspire and uplift future generations of musicians as it has done for me.”

Distinguished Guest Speaker

Tania León, internationally acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, conductor, educator, and advisor to numerous arts organizations, served as our 2021–22 Composer in Residence, leading master classes, coaching student musicians, and more throughout the school year. Throughout this inspiring speech, Dr. León describes her musical journey as a four-year-old “girl with braids whose mother believed so much in her talents,” to leaving Cuba and moving to New York City, where her dreams began to unfold.

“My journey to where I am standing before you today has been blessed by the spirit, encouragement, and support not only of my family, but of teachers, mentors, colleagues, neighbors, friends, audiences, and well-wishers. They have been there for me in the good times, and the not so good times. I’m extremely grateful to receive this honorary doctoral degree, but today as I stand here, I want to reflect on those who have touched, and continue to touch my life profoundly. I’m not standing here alone. Beside me and behind me, though you cannot see them, are the municipal spirits of the founding members that helped me reach the dream they had inspired in a little girl—a dream which became their own.

“On this day of your commencement, each one of you is embarking on a new journey. Each one of you is a dream of a grandmother, mother, father, family, professor, mentor. They have walked with you along the way. They have walked with you to this point. You are just becoming professionals, teachers, mentors, parents, families, threads in the fabric of our human community. As you continue on your journey, as you serve to our societies with your unique talents, I hope you in turn will offer your support, encouragement, and powerful spirit that will help others to a be light of their dreams.”

Alumni Address

Dr. Solomiya Ivakhiv (Violin ’03), celebrated concert violinist, chamber musician, collaborator, educator, recording artist, and champion of music, welcomed the new graduates to the Curtis alumni faculty. Dr. Ivakhiv shared the path she took from Ukraine to the United States, becoming a student Curtis, where she studied with Joseph Silverstein, Pamela Frank, and Rafael Druian.

“Coming to Curtis changed the trajectory of my life and that of my family … Here at Curtis, not only do we learn from other idols and phenomenal Curtis faculty, but also we learn from incredibly talented peers, and I look forward to learning from you … Everything you learn here you will carry with you the rest of your life. You will always be from Curtis and you will always be a part of Curtis.”


Joan Hutton Landis Award for Excellence in Academics
Aaron Charles Patterson (Organ)

Edward Aldwell Award for Excellence in Music Studies
Matthew B. Hakkarainen (Violin)

Dean’s Award for Achievement in Career Studies
Alan Douglas Tolbert (Trumpet)

Dean’s Award for Outstanding Citizenship
David Schonberger (Bass Trombone)

Charles Miller Prize: The Fritz Kreisler Award
Matthew B. Hakkarainen (Violin)

Milka Violin Artist Prize
Emma Carina Meinrenken (Violin)

Angelo Sylvestro Festorazzi Scholarship
Lindsey Reynolds (Opera)

Mehlin Prize
Tianxu An (Piano)

The Presser Foundation Undergraduate Scholar Award
Subin Lee (Harp)

Diplomas and Degrees: Class of 2022

Certificate: 1
Diploma: 2
Post-Baccalaureate Diploma: 11
Bachelor of Music: 39
Master of Music: 9

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