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Overtones: Spring 2018

Overtones: Spring 2018


MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT Creative Connections Roberto Díaz PHOTO: LEE MOSKOW In the cycle of the Curtis year, late winter is the audition season. It’s an exciting time, as hundreds of aspiring musicians arrive with anticipation and enthusiasm and (inevitably) nervousness visible on their faces. On a day when auditions are scheduled, the atmosphere is unmistakably charged with their eager energy. Each has a turn before the faculty, and at the auditions I attend, I am impressed every year with the sheer quality I hear in our applicants. They can play—really play— and every year, it seems, their level rises. What can Curtis teach young players who have already come so far? The answer, of course, is usually: a great deal. Not so much the scales and exercises and drills, or technical mastery. What inspires our faculty as they listen to auditions is the opportunity to help students discover the music between the notes, and discern how to connect the dots. We want to help them tie together all that they have learned and are learning, to allow their experiences to feed and form their art. In this issue you’ll read about a lesson with Carter Brey, one of our two wonderful cello teachers (page 6). In his passions for marathon running, sailing, and literature, he finds metaphors that help him meet musical challenges. In discussing these with his students, he models for them the attitude of a true artist. He is endlessly curious, always asking questions of himself and the world. This curiosity is the key. When we stimulate inquiry in our students—when we teach them to ask questions, to explore, to investigate the world around them—we give them a great gift that will sustain their artistry for a lifetime. We seek opportunities to stretch them. We encourage them to look beyond the boundaries of their own disciplines, and of music itself—whether in a liberal arts classroom, in community service, or in other art forms like theatre, painting, literature, or film. Our chair of liberal arts, Jeanne McGinn, writes of a voice student who, on examining alternative versions of poems by Emily Dickinson in a literature course, applied her learning to the interpretive decisions she made when performing Aaron Copland’s well-known settings of those verses (page 12). Several times a year we send students to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to perform in galleries whose art speaks meaningfully to the music they are performing—works influenced by traditional Chinese music against the backdrop of a 17th-century Chinese architectural installation, or magnetic modernist pieces for flute adjacent to the revolutionary art of Marcel Duchamp. Our current all-school project, titled The Edge Effect, has prompted all kinds of cross-disciplinary inquiry and performance ideas, not least the Curtis 20/21 Ensemble’s exploration of theatrical elements in their performances of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Maxwell Davies’s Eight Songs for a Mad King. Further examples are legion. They speak to our mission to educate and train exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry. As we guide our students, our role is to spark their curiosity, introduce them to inspiring ideas, and urge them to look outside our walls with open eyes and ears. This is what Curtis can offer the musicians who come to us with their skill, their enthusiasm, and their youth. This is how they will find an artistry that is uniquely their own. Roberto Díaz President 2 OVERTONES SPRING 2018

NOTEWORTHY A VISIT FROM THE SPHINX VIRTUOSI Violinist Jessie Montgomery (right), a member of the Catalyst Quartet, is on the faculty of the Sphinx Performance Academy at Curtis Summerfest. PHOTO: COURTESY SPHINX ORGANIZATION Sphinx Summer Academy at Summerfest 2018 The Curtis Institute of Music and the Sphinx Organization will partner in 2018 to bring the Sphinx Performance Academy (SPA), a full-scholarship summer program designed for young Black and Latino string players, to Curtis Summerfest. This new collaborative model includes Curtis alumni as faculty and reflects a special commitment to developing musical talent in the Philadelphia area. The Sphinx Performance Academy at Curtis Summerfest will take place June 10–24 and is designed for string players ages 11 through 17. “This partnership allows us to support the critically important work Sphinx is doing nationally to increase diversity in the arts, work which aligns with Curtis’s mission to engage a local and global community,” said Curtis President ROBERTO DÍAZ (Viola ’84) in announcing the collaboration. “Many of our students and alumni have participated in various programs of the Sphinx Organization throughout the years, and this program gives them the opportunity to mentor the next generation of talented young Black and Latino musicians in Philadelphia and nationwide.” The SPA faculty will include past Sphinx Competition laureates ELENA URIOSTE (Violin ’08) and MELISSA WHITE (Violin ’07), Astrid Schween of the Juilliard String Quartet, and members of the Catalyst Quartet. The Sphinx Performance Academy curriculum includes an intensive schedule of private lessons and chamber music in addition to master classes, recitals, career enrichment sessions, and mentorship specific to navigating the classical music world as a person of color. Full scholarships for all students include tuition as well as housing MORE ONLINE and dining in Curtis’s Lenfest Hall. Sphinx Performance Apply online for the Sphinx Academy faculty and staff will also stay in Lenfest Hall, Performance Academy at Curtis allowing for additional mentorship time alongside students. Summerfest at Applications are available online at, and are due April 11. In October the Sphinx Virtuosi visited Curtis to work with more than 180 middle school and high school students from Play On, Philly!, the School District of Philadelphia, and Project 440 in a day of concerts, discussions, and sectionals. The Sphinx Virtuosi are some of the nation’s top Black and Latino classical soloists, and winners of the internationally renowned Sphinx Competition. Three who are Curtis students or alumni—including ADÉ WILLIAMS (Violin) and GABRIEL CABEZAS (Cello ’13), pictured below, as well as ALEXANDRA SWITALA (Violin ’16)— participated in a panel discussion moderated by JOSEPH CONYERS (’04), assistant principal double bass of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Their 2017 visit to Curtis was part of a nationwide tour, including performances in New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and Detroit. PHOTO: COURTESY SPHINX ORGANIZATION OVERTONES SPRING 2018 3

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