Oldest teacher at Curtis turned 104 today

No-one’s getting any younger, but Eleanor Sokoloff is indestructible.

She joined Curtis in 1936 and has never missed a lesson.


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  • I had thought Mary Hickenlooper – aka Olga Samaroff – had taught at Curtis, but it turns out to have been the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music (as well as Julliard). She didn’t live nearly as long as E. Sokoloff. Her most famous student was William Kapell, and her big ‘claim to fame’ was having been married to the wayward Leopold Stokowski. But Hickenlooper was no slouch – she even played the “Emperor” concerto with Mahler conducting.


  • My apologies, “claim to fame” just sounds wrong. Let me reword it to this: “She was probably best known for having suffered being married to the wayward Stokowski”.

    In her early years, she was better known than Stokowski and was an outstanding player.

  • Bon Anniversaire, Eleanor. Unforgettable memories of you and your much beloved late husband, Dr. Vladimir “Billy” Sokoloff. I understand that you still pour tea for students, faculty, and staff almost every Wednesday at 3 PM in the Common Room (as the lobby of Curtis has always been known) using the founder’s samovar.

      • Since I’m no longer there, I can’t reply with complete accuracy. But, I understand that she shares 2 students with other faculty. Students under 16 get 2 hours of lessons per week. She has also traditionally taken a few private students. My guess is that she teaches 2-4 hours per week for Curtis. She lives next door to the school; therefore commuting time is minimal and the students can come to her apartment for lessons which is well equipped with pianos.

    • Your account of this remarkable lady’s life at Curtis has overtones of the late Ida Carroll’s life as principal of the Northern School of Music in Manchester (UK).
      I was a student there from 1964-68 and on arrival there at 7:30am on the first day of term – fresh off the train from London – with no accommodation arranged – I was welcomed by Ida with breakfast in the college canteen, prepared and served by her, after which she rang a number of landladies on her accommodation list and found me somewhere to stay for my first term. There was nothing she would not do for staff and students alike. Happy Birthday dear Eleanor

  • A true force in piano pedagogy. Her students include Susan Starr, Keith Jarrett, Lambert Orkis, Lucille Chung, Claire Huagci, Craig Sheppard, to name only a few – whom she drilled mercilessly through endless scales and the Well Tempered Clavier,

  • I’m reminded of how my brother always complained that his childhood piano teacher was too old.

  • Lucile Lawrence was another such indefatigable force of nature. She taught from the 1920s well into the 21st Century, including several years at the Curtis Institute of Music as the Associate Instructor of Harp, to Carlos Salzedo, her husband, who founded the department at the beginning of the school. It was at his insistence that it was originally made an all-scholarship school. She taught at Manhattan School of Music, Mannes College of Music, and Boston University until she was physically unable to at the age of about 96. Sadly, other faculty members were dissuading students from studying with her by lying to them, so that her studio grew smaller and smaller, though not at B.U.

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