The Curtis Orchestra

Last night I had the opportunity to hear the Curtis Symphony Orchestra perform in Carnegie Hall. The program was Hindemith Music for Strings and Brass, Jennifer Higdon's Violin Concert w/ Hilary Hahn and Shostakovich 5. What an AWESOME concert this was! Seeing so many young faces on that stage playing at such a high level conjured up a really great feeling in my heart. It made me think back fondly of the time that I spent as a student at Curtis and the great music I made with my friends there. 

For those who have not had the opportunity to hear this orchestra perform, I would highly suggest that you do. It is really one of the great wonders of the musical world. The level of musical enthusiasm and energy is second to none. What the Curtis orchestra lacks in experience and fully finished technical precision compared to a major professional ensemble, it more than makes up with excitement of sound and depth of commitment from its players. The world's great orchestras (many of which are populated by Curtis grads) clearly have the advantage of players knowing the repertoire and having more years to hone their technique. While I'm sure the Curtis Orchestra could never handle the rigors a professional schedule, what they gain from playing only a handful of symphony concerts a year is the ability and desire to make a really special musical impact with the few opportunities they are given on a big stage like Carnegie. You can't tell me that the last stand of the second violins in a major orchestra consistently have the same level of commitment as those at Curtis, and how could they? It's hard to get up for the show with that same degree of intensity 150 times a year. People are tired, they've played Shostakovich 5 100 times, they had an argument with their wife before they came to work, their kids are sick....

I remember being a student and the infectiousness of excitement surrounding "the concert". I'm sure this type of thing happens at schools all over the world, but I think what happens at Curtis really is a special thing by comparison to almost all others. There are great players from every tradition of playing and future stars at almost every institution, but the sheer concentration of talent at Curtis is really something else. The combination of all that talent and commitment results in "The Curtis Sound" that I heard last night. Especially in the strings... there's just nothing like it! I'm sure I'm somewhat biased being an alum, but I think those of you who get the opportunity to hear it for yourself will agree with me. Needless to say, I'm proud of my school!

During my time in the Curtis Orchestra, I never knew exactly how things would pan out for all my fellow classmates. Kind of crazy to see how it's all shaking out. I graduated in 2005 and already my classmates have made their marks on great musical institutions all over the world. I can remember sitting in orchestra with...

Liang Wang - Principal Oboe, NYP -- Liz Koch - Principal Oboe, Atlanta SO -- Joe Conyers - Asst Principal Bass, Philadelphia Orchestra -- Shachar Israel - Asst Principal Trombone, Cleveland Orchestra -- Andrea Kaplan - Flute, St. Louis SO -- Dave Cooper - 3rd Horn, Dallas Symphony -- Andrew Cuneo - Principal Bassoon, St. Louis SO -- Harrison Hollingsworth - Principal Bassoon NYC Ballet -- Maron Khoury - Second Flute, Metropolitan Opera....

I could keep typing that list for the next few hours. It's pretty silly, and that's just during my three years at school there. So, next time you get a chance, check out this orchestra. It's your best chance to see the future stars of our industry while they're still young!

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