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Curtis Institute of Music adds classical guitar program

The Curtis Institute of Music announces the creation of a new classical guitar department, its first new program in two decades.  Students accepted into the program will work with distinguished artists David Starobin and Jason Vieaux, who will join the faculty in the 2011-12 school year.

“Our new guitar students will benefit from the complementary strengths of these superb teachers,” said Curtis President Roberto Díaz.  “We are fortunate that Mr. Starobin and Mr. Vieaux will lead this new department beginning in fall 2011.”  Student applications are due on December 15 and auditions will take place in spring 2011.  Application information is available at

An internationally renowned guitar soloist, David Starobin is the dedicatee of hundreds of new works by composers such as Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Lukas Foss, Poul Ruders, Gunther Schuller, and Milton Babbitt.  Also a Grammy Award-winning record producer, Starobin is the founder of Bridge Records.  “The inauguration of the Curtis Institute’s guitar program is a milestone in the instrument’s history,” said Starobin.  “With its inclusion at Curtis, arguably the world’s finest music conservatory, the guitar and its repertoire continue their steady ascent towards equal standing with the instruments and music of the great classical tradition.  I am honored to join my colleague Jason Vieaux at this important moment in the guitar’s development.”

As one of America’s leading young guitarists, Jason Vieaux plays more than 50 engagements each year in the U.S. and abroad.  Highlights of the past concert season included recitals at Lincoln Center and the 92nd Street Y and two sold-out concerts at the Dumbarton Oaks Concert Series in Washington, DC.  “Curtis’s one-of-a-kind program will not only give students individual lessons but it will also bring these young guitarists into the full musical life of the school,” explained Vieaux.  “They will play in mixed chamber ensembles, collaborate in the creation of new works, and learn how to forge a career as a musician.”

Curtis Dean John Mangan worked closely with Vieaux and Starobin to design the guitar curriculum.  “Like all Curtis programs, it’s intended for exceptionally gifted and skilled young artists,” said Dean Mangan.  “It will offer all of Curtis’s unique advantages: full-tuition scholarships, personalized attention from a faculty of active performers, and our distinctive ‘learn by doing’ approach.”

Funds to endow the new department were provided by the Fondation Charidu at the direction of Curtis Trustee Baroness Nina von Maltzahn and from Curtis Board Chairman H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest.  The Fondation Charidu Chair in Guitar Studies, to be held by David Starobin, was created at the urging of Baroness von Maltzahn and her husband, Baron Lothar von Maltzahn.  Mr. Lenfest matched their gift as part of his faculty chair endowment challenge.  He has pledged up to $17 million to match any gift that endows a faculty chair.  To date, $12 million has been raised and subsequently matched by Mr. Lenfest.

The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level.  One of the world’s leading conservatories, Curtis is highly selective and provides full-tuition scholarships to all of its 164 students.  In this intimate environment, students receive personalized attention from a celebrated faculty.  A busy schedule of performances is at the heart of Curtis’s “learn by doing” approach.  This philosophy has produced an impressive number of notable artists since the school’s founding in 1924, from such legends as Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber to current stars Juan Diego Flórez, Alan Gilbert, Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Higdon, and Lang Lang.

David Starobin was recently called “arguably the most influential American classical guitarist of the 20th century” (Soundboard magazine).  He is the dedicatee of more than 350 new works that he has performed throughout the world, collaborating with ensembles including the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony, Houston Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Saint Louis Symphony, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Emerson and Guarneri string quartets.

Mr. Starobin began his guitar studies at age seven with the Puerto Rican guitarist Manuel Gayol, later working with Albert Valdés-Blain and at the Peabody Conservatory of Music with Aaron Shearer.  While a student at Peabody, Mr. Starobin worked closely with pianist Leon Fleisher and was a frequent participant in the Marlboro Music Festival.

Among Mr. Starobin’s many honors are a Harvard University Fromm Grant for “his commitment to the music of our time”; Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Career Grant; ASCAP’s Deems Taylor Award, and Peabody Conservatory’s Distinguished Alumni Award.  Between 1993 and 2004, Mr. Starobin was the chairman of the guitar department at the Manhattan School of Music, where he currently teaches.  He previously headed guitar departments at Brooklyn College, Bennington College, the North Carolina School of the Arts, and at the State University of New York at Purchase.

In 1981 Mr. Starobin founded Bridge Records, Inc., which he served as president until 2005; he is currently director of artists and repertoire.  His work for Bridge as performer, producer, and executive producer has earned three Grammy awards and 22 Grammy nominations.

One of America’s leading guitarists, Jason Vieaux has earned a devoted international fan base and a reputation for making “the single guitar seem like a body of instruments at work…an orchestra of sound” (Philadelphia Inquirer).  He has performed as concerto soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Florida Orchestra, and Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, among many others, while working with such renowned conductors as Miguel Harth-Bedoya, David Robertson, Michael Stern, Jahja Ling, and Stefan Sanderling.  His triumphant programs and collaborations for Music@Menlo, Strings Music Festival, Grand Teton Music Festival, Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, and others have forged his reputation as a first-rate chamber musician.  As a passionate advocate of new music, he has premiered new pieces by Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, José Luis Merlin, Eric Sessler, Arthur Hernandez, Gary Schocker, and Fazil Say.

Mr. Vieaux already has ten recordings to his credit and many more to come under his multi-record deal with Azica Records.  Bach: Works for Lute, Vol. 1 was released in the spring of 2009, and, after hitting Number 13 on Billboard’s Classical Chart after its first week, received rave reviews by Gramophone magazine, Soundboard magazine, and The Absolute Sound.  He recorded his first CD when he was just 19 years old, and two years later released the top-selling Laureate Series Guitar Recital on the Naxos label.  He is the youngest first-prize winner in the history of the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America International Competition, and a Naumburg International Guitar Competition prize winner.

Mr. Vieaux began guitar studies at age eight with Jeremy Sparks in Buffalo, New York, and continued his studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music with John Holmquist.  He is head of the Cleveland Institute of Music guitar department and is also affiliated with Philadelphia-based Astral Artists.

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 © 21C Media Group, September 2010

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