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More than 36,000 Students From Over 120 Countries Flock to Online Courses Taught by Curtis Faculty

Curtis launches two free classes in partnership with Coursera: 
Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas (Sept 3) and 
From the Repertoire: Western Music History Through Performance (Oct 1)

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(August 26, 2013) Over 36,000 students from more than 120 countries have registered for the Curtis Institute of Music's two free online courses launching this fall. Taught by the same faculty members who train the world's finest young musicians at Curtis, the courses are designed specifically for Coursera, a leader in massive open online course (MOOC) education. Committed to building and educating classical music audiences around the world, Curtis will reach more than double the number of people who attend its student performances in Philadelphia each year through these online courses. Read more in the August 25 New York Times. 

Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, taught by Jonathan Biss,"one of the most striking North American pianists of the new generation" (Toronto Globe and Mail), launches September 3, the first day of Curtis classes. With more than 25,000 students registered, the five-week course takes an inside-out look at the piano sonatas from the point of view of a performer, exploring topics such as the relationship between Beethoven the pianist and Beethoven the composer, the critical role improvisation plays in his highly structured music, and the often surprising ways in which the events of his life influenced his compositional process and the character of the music he was writing. The class will also include weekly assignments and discussions in online forums.

From the Repertoire: Western Music History Through Performance begins October 1, with over 9,000 students signed up to explore some of the most intriguing works in the history of classical music. Jonathan Coopersmith, Chair of Musical Studies, and David Ludwig, Dean of Artistic Programs, delve into masterpieces by J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schoenberg, and George Crumb.

The seven-week course begins with an historical overview of Western music history, then examines key works each week. "These important pieces from the repertoire will lead to discussions of the lives of composers, historical concepts, artistic trends, and analysis to understand what makes the music work" said David Ludwig, also a member of Curtis's composition faculty and the Gie and Lisa Liem Artistic Chair of Performance Studies. "Not only an informative exploration of the past thousand years of music history, these classes are also a wonderful way to get to know great pieces, both for experienced musicians and people absolutely new to concert music."

In addition to lecture videos exploring the era and composer, the classes will include HD broadcast-quality video of performances by Curtis students and alumni. Students will take weekly quizzes, read scholarly articles, and share facets of compositions with classmates through peer-graded assignments. The launch date of October 1 marks Founder's Day at Curtis, commemorating the establishment of the world-renowned conservatory by Mary Louise Curtis Bok.

No prior musical knowledge is necessary for students in either course. The classes are designed for students of any background who want to learn more about classical music. Just as Curtis educates students for careers in the 21st century, the school also strives to educate modern day audiences, building a public that is enthusiastic and appreciative of classical music through increased opportunities to learn and listen.

"Whether I'm performing, rehearsing, teaching, or even just listening, my greatest joy--the whole point, really--is in sharing music" said Jonathan Biss, both an alumnus and Neubauer Family Chair in Piano Studies at Curtis. "Through Coursera, I have the opportunity to connect with students and lovers of music on a scale I never imagined was possible. As much as I cherish the one-on-one interaction I have with the students within Curtis's walls, I find this opportunity to share that experience with people the world over incredibly exciting."

A more interactive, responsive experience than simply watching a video or reading a book, classes on Coursera combine lectures with open-forum discussions and a global community of peers. Students are able to learn at their own pace, test their knowledge, and reinforce concepts through interactive exercises. Key ideas include mastery learning, to make sure students have multiple attempts to demonstrate their new knowledge; interactivity, to ensure student engagement and to assist long-term retention; and frequent feedback, so that students can monitor their own progress and truly master the material.

Coursera has registered a total of almost 4.3 million users since its launch in 2012, and its 86 partners include international institutions from Switzerland to Mexico to Hong Kong. The 423 free courses it offers are from top-tier universities and cover a broad range of disciplines, including medicine, literature, history, and computer science, among others. Coursera is backed by leading venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates.

The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level. One of the world's leading conservatories, Curtis provides its 171 students with full-tuition scholarships and personalized attention from a celebrated faculty. The school's distinctive "learn by doing" approach has produced an impressive number of notable artists, from such legends as Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber to current stars Jonathan Biss, Juan Diego Flórez, Alan Gilbert, Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Higdon, and Lang Lang. Curtis alumni hold principal chairs in every major American orchestra, and each season they are featured as guest soloists with the world's leading orchestras, opera houses, and chamber music series.

Curtis's innovative programs encourage students to perform often and hone 21st-century musical skills, and the school's facilities offer superb spaces for music-making as well as state-of-the-art technologies to enhance learning. Students perform internationally with Curtis On Tour in addition to more than 150 performances in and around Philadelphia each year. When they graduate, they become musical leaders, making a profound impact on music around the globe. To learn more, visit

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