Our next book club: How to succeed at Curtis…. and life

Our next book club: How to succeed at Curtis…. and life


norman lebrecht

July 21, 2018

From Anthea Kreston:

Please join us on our next Fortnightly Music Book Club adventure. One that will connect the broad and diverse Slipped Disk audience to great literature as well as give us a chance to engage with leading musicians of our time. The Fortnightly Music Book Club has a rotating, international group of hosts, and covers a wide range of topics.
Our next topic is the Curtis Institute of Music, with guest host Roberto Díaz, President and CEO of Curtis. A violist of international reputation, he maintains the dual life of performer/educator, and has brought about significant changes to Curtis during his tenure, including the new String Quartet Program, Curtis on Tour, a new building which doubled the size of the school’s campus, and the launch of Curtis Summerfest. What makes Curtis so successful? It has been a training ground for the elite in classical music since it’s inception, with a faculty comprised of the „who’s-who“ in classical music. Housed in a collection of historic mansions in downtown Philadelphia, we will be privy to interviews, video and voices from the present and past – a peek behind the curtain. We will be reading from Powerhouse (MacNeice/Bowen) to learn about the unique business structure (focusing on the introduction and Curtis chapter). Memoirs of Gary Graffman – I Really Should be Practing – and Rudolph Serkin – A Life, both former Presidents of Curtis, will give us historical perspective. All books are available on Amazon. Readers can choose which book/s interest them, and submit questions accordingly.
From our guest host, Roberto Díaz:
Hello from Nantucket, where I am in the midst of a week of performances with Curtis on Tour. Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to a book called Powerhouse: Insider Accounts into the World’s Top High-Performance Organizations, co-authored by Brian MacNeice, founder and managing director of Kotinos Partners.
I first met Brian when he came to Curtis in 2013 as part of a research project with his colleagues at Kotinos Partners aimed at uncovering the principles of high performance. They investigated organizations across many industries – business, sports, technology, finance, education, and the arts—to find out what they all had in common. Following this global survey, Curtis was one of only two cultural organizations in the world to be selected for inclusion in Powerhouse, and the only US educational institution. The school is profiled alongside 11 other top-performing organizations like the Mayo Clinic, New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Team, U.S. Marine Corps, Finnish State School System, St. Louis Cardinals, and others.
As you read this book, you’ll learn more about the special ingredients that contribute to Curtis’s success, and how the same universal principles can be used to spark high performance in any situation – musical or otherwise. I hope you enjoy this exploration and I look forward to answering your questions in the weeks ahead.
From our curator, Anthea Kreston:
Every other Sunday, look for a posting about the Fortnightly Music Book Club. We will hear from Mr. Diaz in 2 weeks. Please submit questions and propose future book titles in the comments section or here: Fortnightlymusicbookclub@gmail.com
See you in a Fortnight!


  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    “Findings” (Simon and Schuster, 1982) is a collection of essays and writings by Leonard Bernstein, one chapter of which is his speech to reunion for the 50th anniversary of Curtis in 1974: “Memories of the Curtis Institute of Music.”

    This speech in the form of an essay details the reasons for his love-hate relationship with the school. LB discusses the pros and cons of his undergrad life at Harvard and the radically different world at the conservatory. Here is a note from the Curtis archives which gives a general reflection on his thoughts, but the speech itself has many more savory details including an unfortunately deranged student whose goal was the murder of Leonard Bernstein and the Director of the school, Randall Thomson.


    • Anthea Kreston says:

      Dear Mr. Fitzpatrick,
      Thank you for this wonderful resource! Fantastic. In the mean time, I am knee deep into the Graffman book, which is very entertaining and enlightening. This school has touched so many different people in a variety of ways. Can’t wait to keep discovering as we go.
      All my best

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I hope as part of this exploration due attention will be paid to the wonderful Curtis String Quartet — praised as the world’s finest by Lionel Tertis in his autobiography — but which recorded in monaural rather than stereo and for Westminster rather than one of the major international labels, and thus is largely remembered by serious (meaning: seriously deranged) record collectors, and of course by lucky pupils of its legendary members.

    Perhaps the story has been told in more detail elsewhere but I’d love to know more about the famous 1931 production of Berg’s Wozzek involving Curtis, the Philadelphia Orchestra and Grand Opera: 88 preliminary (piano) rehearsals, and 60 full rehearsals. According to Abram Chasin’s book on Stokowski (which has quite a bit about Curtis in it) for six months “virtually all private lessons and classroom work were diverted to some aspect of the opera.”

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      There is a book in the works by cellist Orlando Cole’s son-in-law, I believe, that documents the history of the Curtis Quartet (originally called the Swastika Quartet in the late 1920s through the early 1930s until the term and the symbol became associated with much darker forces. Swastika, a sanskrit word, refers to a symbol common to many religious movements, It was the name of Mary Louise Curtis’s home until cooler heads prevailed).

      I have a special prize for anyone who can name the singer who performed the role of the drum-major in the Stokowski-Curtis-Phila Grand Opera 1931 production of Wozzeck. It was the first performance in the US and happened at Philadelphia’s Metropolitan Opera House which is still standing.


      • Frank Thornton says:

        Nelson Eddy

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          Congrats, you win (assuming you didn’t GOOGLE the answer). Please choose one of the prizes:

          Ist prize: i shall come to your home and sing “Indian Love Call” with the partner of your choice.

          2nd prize: I shall sing it twice.


          • Anthea Kreston says:

            Please please come to my house in Berlin and I will sing it with you. Jason can Video it and we can post it. Or – will you be in Paris when I come later this year? It could be a break-out YouTube sensation! I am starting to practice my part now.

  • YoYo Mama says:

    What is this strange text? The many changes at the Curtis also include downgrading the value of music, and upgrading the emphasis on making money. It is not the nurturing legendary home of musical artistry it once was, and hasn’t been for some time. It may not even be all-scholarship anymore, either. But they keep that a secret. The priorities have completely shifted, and I’ve heard it best described as turning it into a Juilliard South. It is more like a corporation than a conservatory, concerned with branding and rewarding wealthy donors of dubious character.

  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    ^The many changes at the Curtis also include downgrading the value of music, and upgrading the emphasis on making money…” Wow!

    Your galloping generalities are truly amazing. Fortunately, I don’t think your “truths” have filtered down to the faculty and students. Thanks for your exhaustive research and I look forward to hearing you cite the sources for this folderol but I shan’t respond beyond this comment.