Curtis Institute of Music Receives Transformational $20 Million Gift to Advance the School's Strategic Vision

Anonymous gift enables Curtis to implement key priorities in financial aid and educational programs
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 11:37 AM EDT

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 7, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The Curtis Institute of Music announces that it has received an extraordinary gift of $20 million from an anonymous donor, to further the school's bold strategic direction as it approaches its centenary in 2024.

Curtis Institute of Music Receives Transformational $20 Million Gift to Advance the School's Strategic Vision

"Curtis has an unparalleled record of success and impact, providing excellence in musicianship which can be experienced throughout the world, and has demonstrated tremendous resilience and innovation," said the donor, who has asked to remain anonymous. "Our family is so proud to be part of this very special and caring organization and we are fortunate to be able to help further the school's strategic vision in this way."

Among the largest single gifts in Curtis history, most of the $20 million gift will be added to the endowment, ensuring that the entire Curtis community benefits from its tremendous impact.

"We are humbled by the generosity the donor has shown to the Curtis community, and are energized by the faith it shows in our strategic initiatives that focus on true innovation and reimagining future careers," says President and CEO Roberto Díaz. "This incredibly generous gift marks a truly transformational moment for Curtis, and will have an immediate, significant impact on our school and students for decades to come."

This gift will provide the resources to implement two of the school's long-desired, key areas of focus: eliminating the need for students to incur loan debt for expenses while at Curtis, and investing in the school's renowned organ department, which continues to raise the prominence of Philadelphia as a center for organ music.  These priorities were selected by Curtis, in consultation with the donor, for their level of urgency and capacity for deep and enduring impact.

"A gift of this magnitude is indicative of the donor's confidence in Curtis's strategic vision, and an expression of profound trust in our leadership to deliver on that promise," said Deborah M. Fretz, chair of the board of trustees.

The $20 million gift makes it possible for Curtis to invest in the following two areas, furthering the mission and vision of the school.

Elimination of Student Loan Debt
Although Curtis has been tuition-free since 1928, thanks to the generosity of founder Mary Louise Curtis Bok, it is not cost-free. Over the course of their studies at Curtis, students can incur significant living expenses which they are unable to meet through family contributions and need-based aid programs that already exist at Curtis. Many students take out personal loans to meet these expenses, and after graduation, these loans can significantly impede the artistic freedom and careers of young musicians. This gift expands Mrs. Bok's vision by greatly enhancing Curtis's existing need-based aid programs to eliminate loan debt for students. Starting in the 2022–23 school year, incoming and current students can apply for grant aid from Curtis to assist with living expenses and other fees. Graduating from Curtis with no loan debt will be pivotal for its young artists, helping to unleash their potential to truly innovate and be creative at a crucial time in their careers. Removing the stress of loan debt is significant in addressing overall student well-being, a key focus for Curtis.

Organ Department Initiatives
Curtis has a long history of training some of the world's great organists, and is unique among programs for its small size, high degree of mentoring from teachers, and extensive training on a variety of instruments and settings. As a result of this gift, Curtis's organ department will reach new heights through the addition of new instruments and a number of new and expanded initiatives, while also strengthening Curtis's relationships with institutions around the city and across the globe. Curtis will commission a new organ for the school, ensuring that students have a world-class instrument always at their fingertips. This organ will replace the existing instrument currently in Field Concert Hall at 1726 Locust Street, an historic building which has undergone significant refurbishing and renovations during the pandemic. Curtis will start to implement its reimagined summer program offerings, with the permanent addition of the Philadelphia Young Artists Organ Camp and creating programs such as a workshop for young quartets with the Dover Quartet. In another area of significant expansion, Curtis will invest in its organ scholar program starting in 2022–23, placing students as organ scholars at Philadelphia area churches to ensure a grounded education in organ liturgy and church repertoire. These initiatives are especially fitting this year, as the school celebrates its storied keyboard departments in the lead up to Curtis's centenary in 2024.

This $20 million gift is one of the largest donations in the school's 97-year history. In that time, the school has received three other single donations over $10 million. In 1928, shortly after Curtis first opened its doors, visionary founder Mary Louise Curtis Bok presented the school with $12.5 million to establish full-tuition scholarships for all students—a pivotal moment for Curtis that still resonates deeply to this day. H.F. "Gerry" and Marguerite Lenfest provided an extraordinary level of support in 2009, allowing Curtis to double the size of its campus with a $30 million challenge grant to build Lenfest Hall; endowing numerous faculty chairs; and investing in curricular, student health, and technology initiatives to help the school cement its position at the leading edge of conservatories worldwide. In 2016 Nina Baroness von Maltzahn contributed $55 million to Curtis in recognition of the school's unwavering commitment to excellence. In honor of that gift, Curtis named two key initiatives in her honor: the Nina von Maltzahn String Quartet Program and Curtis on Tour, the Nina von Maltzahn Global Touring Initiative.

The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry. For nearly a century Curtis has provided each member of its small student body with an unparalleled education alongside musical peers, distinguished by a "learn by doing" philosophy and personalized attention from a faculty that includes a high proportion of actively performing musicians. Curtis makes an investment in the artistic potential of its students, providing them with full-tuition scholarships and need-based grants for living expenses to ensure that each student can enter the profession without educational debt. In a typical year, Curtis students hone their craft through more than 200 orchestra, opera, and solo and chamber music offerings in Philadelphia and around the world. Learn more at

Patricia Johnson,
(215) 717-3190,

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SOURCE The Curtis Institute of Music

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