Grand Opening Tour

Hello, and welcome to the inaugural post of the new Curtis Institute of Music Blog - Backstage at Curtis! As the title implies, this blog is intended to provide an insider's look at what life is like for students, faculty, and staff at the Curtis Institute of Music, located on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. The blog is moderated by members of Curtis' Student Council. In short, whether you're a prospective student, patron, or complete outsider to the world of classical music, your feedback and comments are most welcome.

For this first post, we felt it might be logical to provide an informal "tour" of Curtis, the main building of which occupies two historic mansions on Rittenhouse Square.

Upon entering the building, what better place to start than at the nerve center of it all - the Registrar's Office. Here we see Paul Bryan, Registrar and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, in his spacious office.

Meanwhile, just outside Paul's office is the place from which, if he chose to, he could send the entire school into chaos - the Registrar's Bulletin Board. In the locked space to the right, you can see the lesson and coaching schedule for the week, as well as a list of upcoming master classes. To the left, we have the orchestra schedule and seatings, Student Council minutes, a reminder for a Town Hall Meeting, room assignments, and other important information.

Just downstairs is where the real learning goes on at Curtis - the student lounge. Here we see violinists Dayna Anderson and Ben Beilman engaged in a heated game of foosball.

Also in the basement is the percussion studio. Percussionists and organists occupy a somewhat unique position at Curtis, in that they are granted 24-hour access to the building (which to all other students is open 7 AM - 11 PM). This is because it is rather difficult for percussionists and organists to practice their respective instruments at home, those instruments being somewhat large and unwieldy.

Upstairs are the practice rooms, most of which are converted bedrooms from the building's "mansion" days, and many of which are named after former faculty members - Marcel Tabuteau, Mieczyslaw Horszowski and others. Here we have the Zimbalist room (named after Efrem Zimbalist), which is a particular favorite among many Curtis students for reasons that will become clear momentarily...

...and here, on the other side of the room, we can finally see why. Behind flutist Masha Popova, there is, in fact, a fully functioning bathroom, complete with shower. Yes, that's right. This bedroom-practice room has its own bathroom.

Along the hall outside Zimbalist, there are display cases used to pay tribute to various Curtis traditions, alumni, and whatever else we can come up with. These have included tributes to Carlos Salzedo (the longtime harp teacher), major orchestra principals, and the current display, "First Ladies of The Curtis Institute: Influential Women of the last 85 years."

Speaking of Carlos Salzedo, the room shown below is the Salzedo room, where the school harps are stored and, oddly enough, where flute lessons often take place. Notice the bulletin board nearly obscured on the left side of the picture, where harp competition and audition announcements are posted, and the mysterious cello case that you can see reflected in the mirror, which has been there for over a month and has no apparent owner.

Finally, this tour of Curtis will wrap up with a glimpse of what's in store for the future - a brand new building. This new building, scheduled to be completed in 2011 (and currently on schedule and on budget), will contain expanded practice and teaching facilities, an orchestra rehearsal space (which, suffice it to say, is sorely needed), and (in a first for Curtis) student housing and dining facilities. This building is named after Gerry Lenfest, who has provided astronomical amounts of support to the school, both monetary and otherwise, and without whom this exciting new project would not be possible.

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