Curtis Announces Four Composition Faculty Appointments
PHILADELPHIA, PA—May 11, 2022—The Curtis Institute of Music is pleased to announce the appointments of renowned composers Nick DiBerardino (’18), Jonathan Bailey Holland (’96), Amy Beth Kirsten, and Steven Mackey to its composition faculty beginning in the 2022–23 school year.
“We are thrilled to welcome these four distinguished composers to our faculty,” says President and CEO Roberto Díaz. “They have such diverse experiences and career paths that will help and inspire each of our students to find their own voice.”
Mr. DiBerardino, Dr. Holland, Dr. Kirsten, and Dr. Mackey will work with Curtis students, alongside current faculty member Richard Danielpour, as they develop their compositions through individual lessons, seminars, and coachings. These new faculty members join a distinguished roster of performers, pedagogues, and artist-citizens teaching at Curtis, including Dr. Danielpour, Michelle Cann, the Imani Winds, Daniel Matsukawa, Eric Owens, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, among many others.
“I am very proud that Jonathan, Amy Beth, and Steve, all fantastic composers and educators, are joining us at Curtis,” says Mr. DiBerardino. “It is an honor to call them—and Dr. Danielpour—my colleagues. Our composition students will benefit greatly from the diversity of musical perspectives they offer, and their wealth of experience working with the world’s leading ensembles will be of tremendous value not only to our composers, but also to our performance students and conducting fellows.”
Mr. DiBerardino was appointed as Curtis’s director of composition studies and Ensemble 20/21 last July. He will also continue to serve in these roles, designing and implementing curricula, recruiting a diverse applicant pool, cultivating community relationships, and guiding Ensemble 20/21—Curtis’s contemporary music ensemble.
“Curtis has played such an integral role in my life. As a proud alumnus, I am honored and humbled to return to Curtis in my new capacity as a faculty member,” says Dr. Holland. “I am fortunate to join my esteemed colleagues and share the knowledge and experience I have accrued—both during my undergraduate studies and throughout my professional career. I look forward to guiding Curtis’s gifted students as they explore their compositional voices and discover what makes each of them so exceptionally unique.”
Curtis’s distinct “learn by doing” approach ensures that students benefit from personalized attention from its faculty, who are active artists themselves. In addition, Curtis’s composition students have many opportunities to have their pieces workshopped and performed in recitals and masterclasses from the moment they arrive at the conservatory.
“I am so thrilled to officially join the Curtis community,” says Dr. Kirsten. “In my role as visiting faculty the last two years, I’ve been so moved and inspired by these young composers’ incredible talents—what a joy it’s been to see their works come to life, to be a sounding board and mentor to them. To continue this work now alongside colleagues that I have long admired is really a dream come true!”
“I have visited Curtis many times over the past decade to work with the talented young composers and performers and I am thrilled to formalize that relationship,” says Dr. Mackey.
The individualized attention Curtis students receive from the world-renowned faculty is unique. Private lessons with every faculty member and an unparalleled number of performance opportunities lie at the heart of Curtis’s composition program. Curtis’s composition students are encouraged to enhance and expand their individual compositional voices through their many new works for performance students across Curtis’s departments, as well as through commissions from partner organizations and explorations designed in tandem with the Performance Innovation Lab that provide exclusive access to advances in technology. Curtis students are guaranteed an annual premiere with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, and their curriculum is supported by composition seminars and masterclasses, visits from distinguished guest composers, support from Curtis’s world-class recording team, and opportunities to enhance supplementary skills through score-reading, theory, analysis, music history, courses in career studies, counterpoint, conducting, and many other disciplines.
About Nick DiBerardino
Composer Nick DiBerardino is noted for creating “richly textured, multilayered” sound worlds (Minnesota Star Tribune) that tell fantastical tales. He has written music about everything from failed flying machines and particle physics to Walt Whitman and tall glasses of beet juice.
A Rhodes Scholar, Mr. DiBerardino has received commissions from many distinguished artists and institutions, including Symphony Tacoma, Sandbox Percussion, the New College Choir, arx duo, Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, Music From Angel Fire, and saxophonist Matthew Levy. Residencies include those for the Intimacy of Creativity Festival at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Avaloch Farm Music Institute, and Hidden Valley, where Mr. DiBerardino is a founding faculty member of the Emerging Composers Intensive. His works have been performed around the world by the American Composers Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, Aizuri Quartet, Contemporaneous, So Percussion, and many others.
Mr. DiBerardino founded England’s first laptop orchestra, OxLOrk, and has designed several collaborative composition initiatives, including a children’s opera composed with students at Girard College and a workshop series for people living with Alzheimer’s disease, created in partnership with the Penn Memory Center.
Mr. DiBerardino holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, an M.Phil with distinction from the University of Oxford, a Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music, a post-baccalaureate diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, and an MFA from Princeton University, all in composition. Mr. DiBerardino previously served as lead instructor of musical studies, composition coordinator, and administrator for Curtis’s Young Artist Summer Program, duties he still performs for the Sphinx Performance Academy.
About Jonathan Bailey Holland
Composer Jonathan Bailey Holland has been referred to as “a craftsman with an ear for effective orchestration, a fine theatrical sense and real skill when it comes to formal layout” (Indianapolis Star), and his music has been heralded as “a sunburst of gleaming timbres, the full ensemble resounding in lustrous textures” (South Florida Classical Review). His works have been commissioned and performed by many of today’s leading ensembles including the New World Symphony, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Eighth Blackbird, Awadagin Pratt, Roomful of Teeth, Odyssey Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Network for New Music, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Emmanuel Music, Plymouth Music Series, and many more.
He served as the first-ever composer-in-residence with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and has held similar positions with the South Bend Symphony and the Detroit Symphony, as well as the Ritz Chamber Players and the Radius Ensemble. He has received awards and honors from the Guggenheim Foundation, The Boston Foundation, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, American Academy of Arts & Letters, American Music Center, ASCAP, the Presser Foundation, and others. Holland earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with Ned Rorem. In August, he will become the Jack G. Buncher Chair and head of the School of Music at Carnegie Mellon University; previous faculty appointments include Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Berklee College of Music, and Vermont College of Fine Arts.
About Amy Beth Kirsten
Amy Beth Kirsten, “…one of America’s most innovative and visionary composers” (BBC Music Magazine), is known primarily for her multi-year multimedia theatrical collaborations. She has cast herself in roles as varied as composer, poet, filmmaker, vocalist, and director. Her body of theatrical work spans the last eighteen years and often considers musicians’ instruments, bodies, and voices as equal vehicles of expression. A composer of non-theatrical concert works, she has also been recognized with awards and fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2020), John S. Guggenheim Foundation (2010), and the Rockefeller Foundation (2009). Ms. Kirsten has created collaborative works for her ensemble HOWL, musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony, Peak Performances, the multi-Grammy-winning eighth blackbird, and American Composers Orchestra, among many others. An original story written by Ms. Kirsten and Timothy Leopold (trumpet) is the catalyst for her current project, Jacob in Chains, an evening-length work for Alarm Will Sound. Jacob is a present-day Christmas ghost story inspired by ancient myth, spiritual texts, and the character Jacob Marley from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In addition to her faculty appointment at Curtis Institute of Music, she is director of the Artist Residency at Longy School of Music of Bard College. She is composer mentor for the Blueprint Fellowship at the Juilliard School and has held previous teaching posts at Oberlin College and Conservatory and the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. The Toulmin Foundation, Chamber Music America, the MAP Fund, and many other generous patrons, foundations, and institutions support her work.
About Steven Mackey
Bright in coloring, ecstatic in inventiveness, lively and profound, Steven Mackey’s music spins the tendrils of his improvisatory riffs into large-scale works of grooving, dramatic coherence. As a teenager growing up in Northern California obsessed with blues-rock guitar, Mackey was in search of the “right wrong notes,” those heart-wrenching moments that imbue the music with new, unexpected momentum. Today, his pieces play with that tension of being inside or outside of the harmony and flow forward, shimmering with prismatic detail.
Signature early works merged his academic training with the free-spirited physicality of his mother-tongue rock guitar music: Troubadour Songs (1991) and Physical Property (1992) for string quartet and electric guitar; and Banana/Dump Truck (1995), an electrified-cello concerto. Later works explored his deepening fascination with transformation and movement of sound through time: Dreamhouse (2003), a rich work for voices and ensemble, was nominated for four GRAMMY awards; A Beautiful Passing (2008) for violin and orchestra on the passing of his mother; and Slide (2011), a Grammy Award-winning music theater piece.
Mackey further expanded his theatrical catalog with his short chamber opera Moon Tea about the 1969 meeting between the Apollo 11 astronauts and the Royal Family, premiered by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2021. Other world premieres in 2021 included Shivaree, a trumpet fantasy featuring soloist Thomas Hooten, who premiered the work with the LA Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel.
Today, Steven Mackey writes for chamber ensemble, orchestra, dance, and opera—commissioned by the greatest orchestras around the world. He has served as professor of music at Princeton University for the past 35 years and has won several awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Kennedy Center Friedheim Award. He continues to explore an ever-widening world of timbres befitting a complex, 21st-century culture while always striving to make music that unites the head and heart, that is visceral, that gets us moving.
About the Curtis Institute of Music
The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry. For nearly a century Curtis has provided each member of its small student body with an unparalleled education alongside musical peers, distinguished by a “learn by doing” philosophy and personalized attention from a faculty that includes a high proportion of actively performing musicians. With admissions based solely on artistic promise, no student is turned away due to financial need. Curtis invests in each admitted student, ensuring no tuition is charged for their studies and they enter the profession free from educational debt. In a typical year, Curtis students hone their craft through more than 200 orchestra, opera, and solo and chamber music offerings in Philadelphia and around the world. Learn more at Curtis.edu.
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Patricia K. Johnson
Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs
Ryan Scott Lathan
Associate Director of Communications