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Curtis Graduates Bring Arts Access and Education to Philadelphia

2017–18 Partner Organizations Include South Philadelphia High School, William Cramp Elementary School, State Correctional Institution at Graterford, and Project HOME

PHILADELPHIA, PA—December 18, 2017—Recent graduates Nozomi Imamura, Tessa Ellis, and Emily Cooley are making an impact in the community this season by bringing arts access and education to underserved populations in Philadelphia through the Curtis Institute of Music’s Community Artist Fellowships. Working with South Philadelphia High School, Project HOME, William Cramp Elementary School, and the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, these Curtis graduates are building on existing partnerships or extending work they began as students, and continuing their vital performance careers while serving the community.

Community Artist Fellow Nozomi Imamura (Trumpet ’15) has continued the previous work of Community Artist Program participants and past fellow Stanislav Chernyshev (Clarinet ’14) by offering students at South Philadelphia High School instruction and ensemble building during and after the school day. Curtis’s partnership with South Philadelphia High School, where 100 percent of students are economically disadvantaged , has gradually re-introduced vocal and instrumental music into the curriculum after years without music education of any kind. Because of Curtis’s continuing involvement, the school has invested in a full-time music teacher and is committed to using the arts to accomplish its goals.

Fellow Tessa Ellis (Trumpet ’17) works with Project HOME to teach composition and improvisation to residents at Kate’s Place, a permanent supportive housing residence in Rittenhouse Square; and provides general music instruction for the Pre-school Head Start Program at William Cramp Elementary School in North Philadelphia, a project begun in 2016 by past fellow Shannon Lee (Violin ’16). Ms. Ellis’s service is part of Curtis’s sustained activities with Project HOME, an organization empowering individuals to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through affordable housing, bringing music to a significant percentage of Center City’s homeless population.

In addition to supporting the compositional work by Project HOME residents described above, fellow Emily Cooley (Composition ’17) collaborates with the recently founded nonprofit Songs in the Key of Free to teach workshops in collaborative songwriting, composition, and performance at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, a men’s maximum-security prison in Montgomery County, Pa. Ms. Cooley is helping to create a full-length album of songs written and performed by the workshop participants. She began this project while a Curtis student, through the Community Artist Program (CAP). CAP is part of Curtis’s artist-citizen curriculum, which empowers students to design and implement performance projects that combine artistry with innovation, leadership with advocacy, and citizenship with community.

Community-Based Projects and the Artist-Citizen Curriculum at Curtis

The most inspiring professional musicians of today conceive and realize projects rooted in their art, and understand how to engage audiences of all kinds, deeply and fully. At the Curtis Institute of Music, students develop these skills by leading community-based projects that meaningfully affect the lives of others. In the process they become artist-citizens who are committed to deploying their world-class artistry to engage audiences and transform lives.

This work is embedded in the very mission of Curtis—to educate and train exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry—and in the school’s celebrated “learn by doing” culture. Community-based projects are an essential part of a Curtis education, informing students’ development as artists, citizens, and advocates, and empowering them to invent careers with impact after their graduation.

Community engagement has been part of the Curtis student experience since 1998. In 2014 the school launched a new artist-citizen curriculum to equip students with the essential skills they will need as musicians in the 21st century. At each stage of this curriculum—the Social Entrepreneur course, the Community Artist Program, and the Community Artist Fellowship—Curtis students work with their peers and community partners in Philadelphia to provide rich artistic experiences through performance.

In a typical school year, Curtis musicians reach more than 1,500 members of the community—students and schoolchildren, hospital patients and hospice residents, the homeless, prison inmates, and more—through social entrepreneurship and community artist programs with community partners including Penn Memory Center, Play On, Philly!, Broad Street Ministry, and others.

More information can be found at Curtis.edu/Community.


Hear more about these projects directly from the Fellows:


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