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Curtis success explored in “Philadelphia Inquirer” in print & online

“What makes this ultra-selective conservatory so special?” That is the question posed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, which explores the extraordinary success of the Curtis Institute of Music. As well as a series of three front-page feature stories on consecutive days, the newspaper published a photo-spread in its Arts and Entertainment section and offers an unprecedented wealth of multimedia coverage. It’s all contained in The Curtis Factor: a dedicated micro-site boasting numerous interactive web features, including four exclusive online video documentaries. Also included is a new music video, created especially for the site, showcasing an original score, Trio, by Curtis Institute of Music student Katerina Kramarchuk.
As Peter Dobrin, the Inquirer’s classical music critic, explains, the project began when he and his colleagues noticed how frequently their hometown institution made the news. “The genesis was this: we kept seeing that Curtis students and recent graduates were getting big jobs and winning competitions. We decided to do a story about the successes.” As his first article points out, Curtis “doesn’t cut a showy figure in its hometown. But on the world stage of classical music, its graduates have a presence far out of proportion with their little slip of a school.” After all, recent alumni include Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, and Ray Chen, winner of the prestigious Queen Elisabeth International Violin Competition.
Yet as Dobrin would discover, Curtis’s accomplishments run deeper. “Not only was the school succeeding, but it was also helping musicians to reinvent careers,” he explains. From students producing their own recordings and promoting themselves online to graduates discovering ways to give back to the community, Dobrin realized that Curtis was keeping pace with changes in the classical music world even as others fell victim to them. It soon became clear that to examine the phenomenon effectively, a single story was not enough.
The subject matter lent itself to a multimedia approach: “Classical music is perfect for the kind of technology we are getting into right now. There are things you can do online and with video that you can’t do in print,” Dobrin points out. So, besides making available numerous past and recent articles – including all three of this week’s cover stories – The Curtis Factor offers many additional web features: a historical timeline of the school, and four original video documentaries – complete with exclusive new interview and rehearsal footage – providing glimpses of the audition process, students’ daily lives, what lies ahead after graduation, and Curtis’s unique heritage.
All this is in addition to the Trio music video, which – at more than 16 minutes in length – presents Curtis students performing Kramarchuk’s original score. Born in 1988, Kramarchuk was the composition fellow at the Atlantic Music Festival, was a Young Composer-in-Residence at the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, and won a scholarship from the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau. She received a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts award, and is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma in Composition at Curtis, where she is the Milton L. Rock Composition Fellow. An audio recording of Trio is also available for purchase at iTunes.
For Dobrin and his colleagues at the Philadelphia Inquirer (photographer Tom Gralish, documentary and online producer Frank Wiese, and web designer Cynthia Greer), the story became a complex and groundbreaking piece of work. “The whole team worked on the project for a little over six months,” Dobrin explains. Ultimately, it became “a declaration of quality at the paper.”
Their efforts were not in vain; positive responses are already in from classical music blogs like OperaChic and SoundsAndFury, whose verdict on The Curtis Factor read: “Marvelous. … Well worth your time.”
The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists at the highest professional level. One of the world’s leading conservatories, Curtis is highly selective and provides full-tuition scholarships to all of its 165 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 distinctive “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 Jonathan Biss, Juan Diego Flórez, Alan Gilbert, Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Higdon, and Lang Lang.
To explore The Curtis Factor micro-site, follow the links provided below:
To enter the site, click here.
To enter the “Videos” page, click here.
Getting into Curtis is harder than getting into Harvard, and the audition is key. One California family has three children attending. Watch Chapter 1: Audition to find out how that happened.
At 97, piano faculty member Eleanor Sokoloff (Class of 1938) has been part of Curtis’s history for eight decades. She and others reflect on the artistic personalities that have shaped the school in Chapter 2: Tradition.
Watch Curtis students learn by doing, whether working alone in practice rooms, together in ensembles, or one-on-one in music lessons, in Chapter 3: Transformation.
After graduation, Curtis students find their place in the wider musical world, as Chapter 4: Variation reveals.
For a selection of Inquirer articles about Curtis, both old and new, enter the “Stories” page here.
The first of Dobrin’s front-page feature stories is: “At Curtis Institute of Music, a new measure of success.” Like both the stories that follow, it includes a gallery of photographs from several thousand that were taken by Tom Gralish over a six-month period.
The second front-page feature story is: “Curtis is playing to the world, and thriving.”
The third and final one is: “After stints abroad, a higher musical purpose.”
To see the Trio music video and to meet composer Kramarchuk, enter the “Music” page here.
Finally, to explore a photographic timeline of Curtis from its inception to the present day, enter the “History” page here.
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