The Curtis Institute of Music is embarking on a three-year project to approve the energy efficiency of its facilities in Philadelphia. The announcement, made on December 16, 2020, also indicated that the project was the result of an agreement between Curtis and the Energy Efficiency Network (TEN). Larry Bomback, Curtis’s Senior Vice President of Administration, stated that the project would dramatically improve the energy performance of its buildings on Locust Street. In addition to reducing operating costs, it will also reduce the Curtis Institute of Music’s carbon footprint. Bomback concluded his remarks by saying Curtis was proud to demonstrate its commitment to the local community in Philadelphia.
The project has the support of the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA), which is responsible for developing a clean energy economy in Philadelphia. The PEA’s initiatives include energy projects for government and commercial buildings in Philadelphia, including housing and schools. Alon Abramson, PEA’s Program Manager, said, “We are thrilled that Curtis has stepped forward to be one of the first local institutions to pursue this program.” He added that the PEA encourages non-profit organizations to embrace Philadelphia’s current vision for reducing its carbon footprint.
The agreement between Curtis and TEN also has the support of the Pennsylvania Sustainable Energy Finance (PennSEF) program. PennSEF is a partnership between the Pennsylvania Treasury and the Foundation for Renewable Energy and Environment (FREE). It supports many energy projects in Philadelphia by providing financial backing, project development and technical support. PennSEF used a guaranteed savings model to develop the agreement, which means the savings in energy costs must cover the project’s upfront investment.
Keith Welks, Deputy State Treasurer at the Pennsylvania Treasury, said, “We hope this model will be the motivation for projects that may otherwise appear too challenging for non-profit organizations to pursue.” Curtis’s energy efficiency project will initially cost $650,000, which will provide new lighting and building controls for all of its buildings. These improvements will save the Institute slightly more than $35,000 a year in energy bills, a reduction of 13 percent. They will also reduce Curtis’s carbon footprint by about 166 Maximum Theoretical Emissions (MTEs) each year.
Curtis, PEA and PennSEF selected TEN through a competitive process. The project will only use local contractors for both design and construction.
The Curtis Institute of Music is a private music school in Philadelphia. Its courses of study can lead to credentials such as a Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, Professional Studies Certificate and a performance diploma. Curtis is one of the world’s most selective institutes of higher education, with an admissions rate below five percent.
Mary Louise Curtis Bok founded the Curtis Institute in 1924, naming after her father, American publisher Cyrus Curtis. Bok consulted with pianists Leopold Stokowski and Josef Hofmann on the best way to support gifted musicians before buying three buildings in Rittenhouse Square. She had the buildings renovated and established a faculty consisting of prominent musicians. Bok also left the Institute with an endowment of $12 million, equal to about $177 million in today’s dollars.
Curtis’s mission is to train exceptionally talented musicians to achieve the highest levels of musical ability. It serves the Greater Philadelphia area as well as the global musical community through a variety of live performances, recordings and digital initiatives.
Curtis enrolls about 170 students each year from around the world. For the 2014 to 2015 academic year, the ages of the students ranged from 10 to 32. Fifty-six of these students were from the U.S. and represented 29 states, while the other 44 percent were from 21 other countries. Each student that attends Curtis receives a full-tuition scholarship for the duration of their studies. The school also awards over $1 million from its Student Assistance fund each year to help students pay for their living expenses. Curtis’ admission policies are based purely on merit, ensuring that the ability to pay is never a factor in whether a student is admitted.
One-on-one training with a practicing musician is the core Curtis’s curriculum. Curtis currently has 105 faculty members, resulting in a student-teacher ratio of about 2:1. These teachers are currently active in their field and have included many renowned soloists such as Gary Graffman and Aaron Rosand, who were also Curtis alumni. Additional alumni who have later taught at Curtis include Jennifer Higdon, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, and many principal players in The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Curtis supplements its full-time staff with artists-in-residence and visiting artists, including Eighth Blackbird, a Grammy-winning music ensemble. These artists provide students with additional instruction through coaching sessions and master classes. Curtis’s philosophy that students learn by doing ensures that private training is complemented by real-world experiences.
Students participate in about 150 performances during each school year, including those with Curtis’s own symphony orchestra, opera theatre and ensembles. Additional performances include solo and chamber recitals. The audience for these events number in the tens of thousands, including live performances and the school’s online platforms.
Curtis’s performance-focused curriculum fosters the transition of its students from promising young musicians into consummate artists through the complete immersion in developing their craft. Curtis’s alumni include musical legends Samuel Barger and Leonard Bernstein, in addition to current stars like Lang Lang and Hilary Hahn. Curtis alumni can be found in nearly every major musical institution, including soloists, conductors, composers and other principal players. Current students have also won international musical competitions such as the Metropolitan Opera, Queen Elisabeth and Van Cliburn.
The Curtis Institute of Music will be renovating its buildings to reduce their energy usage, a project that will eventually turn a profit for the private conservatory. This project has the support of many organizations in the Philadelphia area with an interest in energy conservation, including the PEA, PennSEF, TEN and the Philadelphia Treasury. Curtis has been developing promising young musicians into renowned performers for nearly a century and has produced many stars in the musical arts. Admission to Curtis is entirely merit-based, as students never need to pay tuition.