Curtis names successor to centenarian professor

Curtis names successor to centenarian professor


norman lebrecht

November 18, 2020

The Curtis Institute has filled the vacancy left by the death of Eleanor Sokoloff, 106, with Michelle Cann, 33.

Way to go.

Cann is due to make her Philadelphia Orchestra debut in spring 2021 in the Florence Price Concerto in One Movement. She is presently on the Curtis roster as a ‘collaborative staff pianist’.



  • PianoGuy says:

    Unquestionably, that position should have been bestowed to Susan Starr, whom Eleanor Sokoloff repeatedly requested as her heir apparent.

    • BruceB says:

      According to Wikipedia, Susan Starr is 78 years old. I don’t know her, but it seems possible she wasn’t interested.

      • esfir ross says:

        Susan Starr won 2nd price 1962 Tchaikovsky competition. 1st price winner ‘re V.Ashkenazi and John Ogdon

      • Bob Snyder says:

        Yes, she is 78 but, even though she is not playing anymore due to hand problems, she is one of the best piano teachers around today snd a most amazing musician. She would have loved to teach at Curtis, her Alma Mater. For years she taught Mrs. Sokoloff’s students in the summer when Mrs. Sokoloff went to Maine.

    • Robert Freeman says:

      The world is changing – and should!

    • pianoguy says:

      what is it with near-dead requesting who their successors should be these days? yes, you might have an opinion, but rarely an actual say

    • Firing Back says:

      Completely true.
      And Susan Starr is a phenomenal teacher and player – not to mention a warm and giving person to boot.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    May Michelle Cann have a productive teaching career at Curtis for the next 73 years.

  • Rap-Sody No. 5 says:

    Curtis’s piano faculty has been a small but ultra-elite cohort for a century- Hofmann, Serkin, Horszowski, Graffman, Sokolov, McDonald. Need more be said?

  • Hmus says:

    I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Ms. McCann in her position as “collaborative pianist” several times at Curtis. She’s excellent, not just her playing but her involvement with the music and the ensemble are inspiring. As a player she reminds me quite a lot of the late Natalie Hinderas.

    If you understand what Eleanor Sokoloff’s musical role had been at Curtis (apart from her place as virtual Queen Mother) you’ll find that McCann’s skills are more than ample for that position. If she brings the quality of her performance to her teaching, Curtis has made an excellent choice.

  • Yoon says:

    This is very wonderful news! I have known Prof. Cann from our middle school years (she and I were in a youth orchestra together playing violin), and, throughout all the years I have known her, she has shown talent, dedication to the arts, and determination that are unparalleled. More importantly, she has always treated everyone around her–teachers, colleagues, students, friends, family–with utmost kindness and respect. She always brought her best in whatever work or situation she found herself in, no matter how small or large.

    Therefore, I am overjoyed to hear that the position at Curtis has been rightly bestowed upon someone who more than deserves it, and I hope that she will inspire–as she does for me–many more people who strive to attain the qualities that she possesses: humility, compassion, and love for all things good.

  • fliszt says:

    One wishes Ms. Cann well, but it would be unfair to characterize her as a “successor” to Eleanor Sokoloff: Pedagogically speaking, NOBODY could replace Ms. Sokoloff — who carved out a unique niche for herself as a “builder” of pianists. Give her a talented little girl (yes, most of them were girls between the ages of 6-12) and she would turn them into keyboard-devouring virtuosos – such as Susan Starr, Arlene Portney, Claudia Hoca, Maroiara Trifan, Claire Huangci, and Lucille Chung, to name but a few. Sokoloff knew how to build a solid pianistic foundation in children, and she produced rock-solid players.