|Endowment||$253.2 million (2019)|
The Curtis Institute of Music is a private conservatory in Philadelphia offering courses of study leading to a performance diploma, Bachelor of Music, Master of Music in Opera, or Professional Studies Certificate in Opera. It is among the most selective institutes of higher education in the world with an admissions rate between 4 and 5 percent.
The institute was established in 1924 by Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who named it in honor of her father, Cyrus Curtis, an American publisher. After consulting with musician friends including Josef Hofmann and Leopold Stokowski on how best to help musically gifted young people, Bok purchased three mansions on Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square and had them joined and renovated. She established a faculty of prominent performing artists and eventually left the institute with an endowment of US$12 million ($177,000,000 in current dollar terms) in 1927.
The institute formerly served as a training ground for orchestral musicians to fill the ranks of the Philadelphia Orchestra, although composers, organists, pianists, guitarists, and singers are offered courses of study as well.
All pupils attend on full scholarship and admission is extremely competitive. With the exception of composers, conductors, pianists, organists, and guitarists, admission is granted only to the number of students to fill a single orchestra and opera company. Accordingly, enrollment is in the range of 150 to 175 students. According to statistics compiled by U.S. News & World Report, the institute has the lowest acceptance rate of any college or university (4 percent), making it among the most selective institutions of higher education in the United States.
Nina Simone claimed her enrolment was rejected because of her race despite excellent credentials and audition performance. Simone was one of 75 pianists to audition in 1951; only three were accepted.
Past directors of the institute have included:
Roberto Díaz is president and director of the Institute. Díaz is also a Curtis alumnus and faculty member. He was principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1996 to 2006 and is a member of the Diaz Trio. Paul Bryan started his tenure as interim dean in January 2013.