As we look forward to celebrating the Curtis class of 2018, we look back at the very first Curtis Commencement, held 84 years ago.
Curtis conducted its first formal graduation ceremony in Casimir Hall (now Field Concert Hall) on May 22, 1934. It was a large class—over 70 graduates—and included not only those who completed their studies in 1934, but 1933 as well.
Looking at the 1934 graduation program through the lens of intervening years, it serves as a veritable Who's Who of not only Curtis alumni, but world-renowned musicians. Graduates included Max Aronoff (Viola), Rose Bampton (Voice), Samuel Barber (Composition), Jascha Brodsky (Violin), Orlando Cole (Violoncello), Gian Carlo Menotti (Composition), and Edna Phillips (Harp).
Aronoff, Brodsky, and Cole, along with Charles Jaffe (Violin '35), performed for decades as the Curtis String Quartet and joined the Curtis faculty; Bampton sang for 18 seasons with the Metropolitan Opera as both a mezzo-soprano and soprano; Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti both forged successful careers as composers and also returned to teach at Curtis; Phillips was appointed the principal harp in the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of 23, becoming not only the first woman in that orchestra, but the first female principal in any major orchestra in the United States.
Curtis has since continued this tradition of formally recognizing the achievements of its graduates, and looks forward to doing so again in May!
Kristina Wilson, archivist
For more information on Curtis history, visit the Curtis Archives.