Member Spotlight: Curtis Institute of Music


Aricle by Eric Petersen, GPA Ambassador

When asked about the most exclusive institute of higher learning in the Philadelphia area, many residents would presume it was a large research university. However, with an acceptance rate of 4%, the Curtis Institute of Music is more selective than Penn or any other Ivy League school. Curtis has among the strictest emissions standards of any institution of higher learning. Performance is the only criteria, and applicants are judged in two rounds of auditions. The faculty rank all applicants by instrument, and admit accordingly. If there are 5 positions for the violin, the top five applicants will gain admission. However, if not enough applicants meet their standards, they will leave a seat empty and invite a professional to fill the empty chair in the orchestra, ensuring only small differences in ability among the student body.

Unike Curtis, most organizations suffer from a large performance gap. When ranked on a scale from 1 to 10, many teams have members ranging from 3 to 9. High performing members often feel underappreciated, and without thinking will see their performance drop in quality. Team members at the bottom will see the massive ability gap and make no attempt to catch up, while team members in the middle will be content being average.

At Curtis, because every student has earned a place, the performance gap is incredibly small. In the absence of standard admissions preferences like legacy status and concerns for geographic diversity, every student has a similar level of talent. This environment ensures that each student works diligently, lest they stand out amongst their hard-working peers. Because every Curtis student is a talented musician, they all work to perfect their craft and reach their full potential. By admitting only the most qualified students, administrators keep their student body competitive.

Furthermore, The curriculum places pressure on students to constantly perform and create original pieces. Instead of performing classic symphonies, students are tasked with creating their own works and performing live on dozens of occasions. Because students are constantly scheduled to perform, they lose much of the anxiety that comes with larger shows. Students can never hide in a crowd, as the student to faculty ratio of 1.55 to 1 is incredibly low, making even small liberal arts colleges appear large. Attention to student development is at the core of Curtis’ mission, and each musician is paired with an instructor in their first year. Because the student body numbers only 174, each student has the flexibility to pursue their goals. This commitment to artistic development transcends traditional classroom walls, and allows for students to achieve mastery of an instrument, even with an abnormal schedule. Although Curtis may be one of Philadelphia’s hidden gems, the prestigious music school deserves a closer look among Philadelphia residents.