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Contemporary Music

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Composers, both teachers and students, have been active at Curtis from its first days, from Barber and Menotti to Rorem and beyond. Their successors continue to study, create, and perform the music of their time. They are inspired by annual composers in residence; mentored by the contemporary ensemble in residence, eighth blackbird; and offered performance opportunities in abundance by the student contemporary music group, the Curtis 20/21 Ensemble. Curtis has also created commissioning opportunities, like Curtis On Tour, that allow for repeat performances of new works.

1938: Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti were closely identified with Curtis, first as students and later as faculty members.

PHOTO: Curtis Archives/Fritz Henle
1999: A panel of Curtis composition faculty near the millennium: Ned Rorem, Richard Danielpour, and Jennifer Higdon

PHOTO: Curtis Archives/Don Tracy

“What I would like to bring about in Curtis, which has so many skilled young performers, is a real liaison between the composition students and the performers. I would like to convey to those young performers how important it is for them to play the music being created in their own time … I would like the young composers who are working with me not merely to think about a work in the abstract, but to follow through on it, bring it to the point of being performed.” —Ned Rorem, Saturday Review, October 19, 1980

2014: Curtis composition faculty and alumni composers were featured in concert in October 2014, co-presented by Curtis and American Public Media’s Performance Today (l. to r.): Katerina Kramarchuk, David Ludwig, Chiayu Hsu, Richard Danielpour, Zhou Tian

PHOTO: Nate Ryan/American Public Media


A history of composition at Curtis

Menotti composes the Curtis Catalogue

“Creating Cold Mountain” – Student singers help to develop a new opera by faculty composer Jennifer Higdon. (Spring 2014)