Exclusive: Crisis at Curtis as practice rooms are shut

Students at the Curtis Institute of Music are having a midterm meltdown after the Dean ordered the practice rooms to be locked after an outbreak of vandalism.

Here’s the notice that went out from the Dean’s office:

All Students:

[President of Student Council] wrote last week on behalf of Student Council asking that the recent Lenfest Hall practice room vandalism stop. Kudos to him and his council colleagues for taking the lead on this issue.

Unfortunately, three more instances of vandalism occurred overnight—a mirror and thermostat lock box being ripped off the wall/damaged and lipstick found on the acoustic paneling in another room. Any purposeful damage to our facilities is disappointing, but what has transpired over the last two weeks—the number of rooms damaged—is abhorrent. All Lenfest Hall practice rooms are now locked. They will remain locked until the person(s) responsible for the damage come forward or I receive credible information concerning who may have done this. You may contact me, [Associate Dean of Student Affairs] or [Building Manager] if you know something of which we should be aware.

A student tells us: ‘This is the busiest time of the semester for us. We have a composer’s concert coming up, a concert cycle to play the following week, and numerous student chamber groups and outside engagements for a lot of us.’

Can’t they just instal video cameras to catch the vandals? Collective punishment has no place in a modern conservatoire.


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  • Indeed, “collective punishment has no place in a modern conservatoire.” Curtis is not a modern conservatoire. It is a very insular, archaic, arrogant and elitist institution. This sort of 19th Century collective punishment is very befitting of the school and its administrators. They indeed have a very high quality of students and faculty, but a mentality that is most definitely not in the 21st Century. Perhaps that is why they can maintain a musical and pedagogic excellence last seen in the world some 200 years ago. Vandalism is very 21st Century, so it appears that Curtis may be transforming itself into the typical 21st Century educational institution in the United States, one where students not only regularly vandalize school property, but deal drugs on campus, manage prostitution rings within the school and bring guns and other weapons to school everyday. Lipstick on the wall of a practice room is nothing compared to your average U.S. school in 2019. Sadly, it appears that Curtis is now playing catch-up.

    • I teach at a university, and vandalism is almost non existent here, and I have not heard of it being an issue at any of my colleagues institutions. And certainly not prostitution. But thanks for the blanket 19th century ignorant statement.

      Vandalism was a much, much bigger problem 30-50 years ago at most institutions than it is now, as were drugs, in spite of the current opioid crisis afflicting the US.

      Obviously, Curtis will need to either install surveillance or keep the rooms closed until the perpetrators are caught.

        • Really? My experience working with Curtis students has been that most of them would do well to smoke some marijuana occasionally.

    • ‘Vandalism is very 21st Century’

      The Vandals were around 2200 years ago, you know. Egyptian graffiti is older. There is no new thing under the sun.

  • What kind of ‘Dean’ would lock students out of practice rooms provided for their use?


  • Please remember that these students are attending Curtis FREE OF CHARGE. They, in turn, don’t seem to appreciate that fact, and think that vandalism is ok.

      • No one else can enter the building. Somebody was practicing too many etudes. Breakdown time. And not all go free anymore.

    • High schools are free, too, and get trashed regularly. Other schools deal with far worse, too. But why are we making an unnecessary comparison? And was this malicious or simply selfish?

      • High school is mandatory and not everyone wants to go there. Presumably Curtis students WANT to go there. There is no comparison. Find another example.

  • I hope if they find out who did it, that the culprit(s) get(s) psychological help. The vandalism doesn’t sound all that serious — not like damaging a piano or breaking furniture, which is what I thought I was going to read about — and damaging one’s practice environment speaks to some kind of emotional problem rather than casual sociopathy.

    Also — does Curtis have dorms nowadays? Back in the day, students lived in apartments (that was an expense even though tuition was free), and I remember being told that piano students were given their own pianos to practice on while they were students there. If the piano story is [still] true, then pretty much everybody should be able to practice at home, although not late at night. Locking the practice rooms should only affect … what? Chamber music rehearsals? It seems like kind of an overreaction, but I wonder how much of an effect it will really have on students’ ability to practice.

    • The building affected, Lenfest Hall, is a dormitory. People most affected are those who aren’t permitted to practice in their apartments. All small individual practice rooms are locked now, with the exception of classrooms and two large, often-reserved lesson rooms. Definitely affects ability to practice. One student took to the stairwell for practice the other day because all other rooms were unavailable.

      • I loved practicing in the stairwell. Living and studying and practicing all in the same building is not psychologically healthy. It was better for the students when they had apartments.

      • Well, that sucks. I well remember calling about apartments in my student and post-student days in Boston. The conversation on my side would often go: “And one other thing — I’m a musician, and I would — hello? Hello?” Amusing story now, but not at the time.

  • Stuff happens (even at Curtis), and that never eliminates the idiot factor or excuses abhorrent behavior. But with today’s technology this just seems really easy to solve without eliminating scarce practice space at a really busy time.

  • I know! lets collectively punish all college presidents for those few that took bribes for admissions! That’ll teach ’em !

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