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For the first ten years of its existence, Curtis did not issue diplomas to departing students. Founder Mary Louise Curtis Bok organized the school’s first commencement in 1934, inviting alumni to return to accept diplomas and degrees. Since then, 80 more commencement ceremonies have come and gone, graduating a total of more than 4,000 alumni.

1934: Alumni attending the first graduation included composer Samuel Barber (top row, second from right) and cellist Orlando Cole (second row, second from right).

PHOTO: Curtis Archives

“On the afternoon of May 22, 1934, The Curtis Institute of Music held its first Commencement … The degree of Bachelor of Music was given to thirty-four graduates, who in addition received the Diploma of The Curtis Institute, together with forty-four other graduates … At three-fifteen the doors of Casimir Hall swung wide to admit the graduate procession … graduates, speakers, and officials of the Institute, wearing academic costume, advanced across the front of the hall and down into the center section where seats had been reserved, the speakers and officials proceeding to the stage.”   Overtones, May 1934

1949: Graduates Lee Trobaugh and Robert Cole on the steps of the main building after the commencement ceremony

PHOTO: Curtis Archives/Diana Steiner Collection
2014: Graduate Shuangshuang Liu listens to remarks by Curtis President Roberto Díaz.

PHOTO: David Swanson

A typewritten, internally circulated account of the first Commencement appeared in an unpublished edition of Overtones in 1934.
“We’re Never Really Done with Curtis” – looking back on Commencement 2010