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Board Chair Nina von Maltzahn Makes Record-Breaking $55 Million Gift to Curtis in Support of Strategic Direction

Largest Gift Since Mary Louise Curtis Bok Established the School's Tuition-Free Policy in 1928

Two key initiatives named in her honor: the Nina von Maltzahn String Quartet Program and Curtis on Tour, the Nina von Maltzahn Global Touring Initiative

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PHILADELPHIA—May 12, 2016—The Curtis Institute of Music announces a record-breaking $55 million gift from Board Chair Nina Baroness von Maltzahn, the largest single gift the school has received since Mary Louise Curtis Bok established the school's tuition-free policy in 1928.

Among the largest ever made to a music school in the United States, this gift reflects Baroness von Maltzahn's passionate belief in the educational programs at Curtis, which she has supported since 2008 by endowing faculty chairs, establishing new programs, and underwriting international touring experiences for students. She concludes her two-year tenure as board chair on May 31, 2016 and will remain an active member of the board of trustees. 

In recognition of her extraordinary support, Curtis will name two key initiatives in her honor: the Nina von Maltzahn String Quartet Program and Curtis on Tour, the Nina von Maltzahn Global Touring Initiative. Her $55 million gift will be added to the endowment and ensure continued support for these programs and other strategic initiatives as Curtis pursues ambitious goals leading to its 100th anniversary in 2024. 

"The students at Curtis are so close to my heart. To hear them perform, to support their learning and to see them flourish is immensely gratifying," said Baroness von Maltzahn. "Over the past two years as board chair, I've witnessed the evolution of young string quartets in residence at Curtis into fully fledged professional ensembles and seen Curtis on Tour strengthen the school's presence in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and across the United States. I'm so pleased my gift will allow this growth to continue, and hopefully serve as an inspiration to others who want to support education and music-making at the highest level." 

"The Board of Trustees is moved by the magnitude of Nina's generosity," said Mark Rubenstein, a trustee since 2009 who will succeed Baroness von Maltzahn as board chair. "Curtis's signature full-tuition scholarship policy has kept the school at the forefront of the world's conservatories. However with no tuition revenue, it also means that the generosity of individual donors is of extreme importance. Nina has our profound thanks for her vision and support."

Historical context

Nina von Maltzahn's $55 million gift represents a level of commitment matched by few others in the 91-year history of the school. Among the countless contributions of founder Mary Louise Curtis Bok was her pivotal gift of $12.5 million in 1928 that established full-tuition scholarships for all students. H.F. "Gerry" and Marguerite Lenfest also provided an extraordinary level of support, allowing Curtis to double the size of its campus with a $30 million challenge grant to build Lenfest Hall; endowing 11 faculty chairs; and investing in curricular, student health, and technology initiatives to help the school maintain its position at the leading edge of conservatories worldwide.

"Like Mary Louise Curtis Bok and Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, Nina's dedication has been transformational. There is no other word for it," said Curtis President Roberto Díaz. "Her incredible generosity will help us continue to maintain the world-class level of training we provide in Philadelphia while sharing our students' artistry with the world. And as the musical landscape evolves, it's important for us to be able to create new opportunities for our students. We cannot thank Nina sufficiently through words alone, but hope to do it through music each time we perform in Philadelphia and around the globe."

Curtis on Tour, the Nina von Maltzahn Global Touring Initiative

Baroness von Maltzahn played a key role in the establishment of the programs that now bear her name. She has provided groundbreaking exposure for Curtis in Europe by facilitating performances in Italy, Spain, Denmark, England, France, and Germany. Curtis on Tour returns to Europe May 18 through June 2, 2016, performing in Alicante, Teulada, and Moncofa, Spain; and Berlin, Dresden, Munich, and Bremen, Germany ( Baroness von Maltzahn's support has also made possible expanded touring opportunities in Asia and South America and laid the groundwork for a full orchestra tour of Europe in 2017 with Osmo Vänskä to include stops in Austria, Finland, and Germany, among other countries.

Curtis on Tour offers students real-world, professional touring experience as well as opportunities to interact with local musicians through master classes and community engagement activities. Reflecting on a tour to Asia, Born Lau (Viola '14), said "These are not things that can be learned in any classroom—they have to be learned by doing. I came out of this journey a better musician than I was going in." Over the past nine years, students, faculty, and alumni have traveled to more than 50 destinations, with new locations added each year.

Nina von Maltzahn String Quartet Program

In 2013 Baroness von Maltzahn also helped establish the string quartet program to allow young ensembles the performance opportunities and exposure to help launch their careers. Community engagement is an important part of the program, as quartet members participate in Curtis's Community Artists Program, designing and implementing a unique performance project that combines artistry with advocacy.

Both string quartets to emerge from the program have met with immediate critical acclaim. The New Yorker called the Dover Quartet "the young American string quartet of the moment" and the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, "In terms of choosing a calling card to send out into the world, the Curtis Institute of Music could hardly do better than the Aizuri Quartet." A new quartet in residence, the Zorá Quartet, was recently selected for the 2016-17 school year.

Strategic Direction

These educational opportunities, which embody the "learn by doing" philosophy at the heart of a Curtis education, are important elements of the strategic direction guiding the school towards its 100th anniversary in 2024. This direction is organized around a plan that reaffirms Curtis's commitment to maintaining an unparalleled level of music-making and remaining tuition-free, and also articulates a new goal to train students to become advocates for music who engage audiences around the world.

Other elements of the strategic direction to be carried out on the years to come include:

  • Ongoing development of educational offerings, allowing Curtis to continue to attract the very best students and faculty
  • Creation of a robust alumni network to support Curtis graduates around the world with career and networking opportunities
  • Launch of an expanded partnership with Opera Philadelphia that provides advanced artistic apprenticeship and performance opportunities for graduate-level singers, as well as conducting and composition students with an interest in opera 
  • Continued engagement with the community through initiatives such as the ArtistYear fellowship program, in which Curtis graduates devote themselves to a year of service in Philadelphia 
  • Extension of Curtis's presence in the digital space, sharing music and the stories of musicians through the web via weekly live streams on Curtis Performs, continued free classes on the Coursera platform, and an updated website

About Nina von Maltzahn

Baroness von Maltzahn joined the Curtis board of overseers in 2008 and the board of trustees in 2010. She became chair of the board of trustees in June 2014, succeeding H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest. She endowed the Nina von Maltzahn President's Chair held by Roberto Díaz and the Nina von Maltzahn Chair in Violin Studies, held by Ida Kavafian. At the urging of her husband, Baron Lothar von Maltzahn, Curtis formed a guitar department in 2010 and created the Fondation Charidu Chair in Guitar Studies, held by David Starobin.

Born in New York City and now residing in Punta del Este, Uruguay, Baroness von Maltzahn maintains active ties to Europe and New York City. She is founder and president of the Fundación Retoño (Sapling Foundation), a nonprofit organization that works to develop better opportunities for over 400 children at social risk in Uruguay. She also funds projects related to environment and medical research.

She serves on the boards of several German organizations, including the American Academy in Berlin, a research and cultural institution dedicated to fostering ties between the United States and Germany; and the James Simon Foundation, dedicated to the promotion of art, culture, and public utility. She is an honorary member of the board of the chamber music series Spectrum Concerts Berlin; a member of the International Council of the Salzburg Easter Festival's Association of Patrons, a renowned classical music festival founded by Herbert von Karajan in 1967; and a member of the Metropolitan Opera International Council.

About the Curtis Institute of Music

Drawing upon over 90 years of artistry, the Curtis Institute of Music pairs tradition and innovation, educating exceptionally gifted young musicians as artist-citizens who engage a local and global community through music-making of the highest caliber. Each year 175 students come to Curtis, drawn by a tuition-free, performance-inspired learning culture. In this intimate environment, they are nurtured by a celebrated faculty and inspired by the school's distinctive "learn by doing" approach, offering more than 200 concerts each year in Philadelphia, as well as performances around the world through Curtis on Tour.

"One of the world's finest music academies" (BBC Culture), Curtis reaches global audiences through Curtis Performs (, the school's dedicated HD performance video site. Online music courses and Summerfest programs offer lifelong learners further ways to listen, explore, and learn. And students hone 21st-century skills through social entrepreneurship programs that bring arts access and education to the community.

The extraordinary young musicians of Curtis graduate to join 4,000 alumni who have long made music history. Each season leading orchestras, opera houses, and chamber music series around the world feature Curtis alumni. They are in the front rank of soloists, composers, and conductors and can be found in every major American orchestra. Alumni have also held principal chairs in the major orchestras of Europe, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Vienna Philharmonic, where Jose Maria Blumenschein ('07) was recently appointed concertmaster. Curtis graduates become musical leaders, making a profound impact on music onstage and in their communities. To learn more, visit

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