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Planned Giving News

Informative features, updated monthly, about developments in planned giving at Curtis and how you can make a lasting gift to the school by including the Curtis Institute of Music in your financial and estate plan.

planned giving news - Creating your legacy of music at curtis
august 2017


Gifts Worth Highlighting

First-year Curtis double bass student Edward Francis-Smith is shown here with the Italian-made instrument recently given to the school by Curtis alumnus Emilio A. Gravagno. Curtis received the double bass from Mr. Gravagno shortly before his death in September, 2016.  In making the gift to Curtis at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, Mr. Gravagno had the opportunity to meet Edward knowing that he would be using the bass this year. One of seven bass students at Curtis, Edward studies with faculty members Harold Hall Robinson and Edgar Meyer. In excellent condition, the bass is a treasured addition to the school's collection of fine instruments.

A member of the Philadelphia Orchestra for over forty years, Mr. Gravagno was a master of the large sound produced by his bass.  It was previously owned by Anton Torelli, legendary Philadelphia Orchestra member and double bass teacher at Curtis from 1926 to 1948.  Mr. Gravagno's generosity to Curtis over the years was exemplary. In addition to giving Curtis his double bass, Mr. Gravagno, with his wife, Carol Haas Gravagno, made a very significant gift to Curtis to endow the school's new double bass studio on the second floor of Lenfest Hall.

Curtis welcome the opportunity to discuss gifts of fine musical instruments. Most often, the owner of a valuable musical instrument considers it a "member of the family" and wants to know how Curtis would manage and maintain the instrument. If you would like discuss such a gift to Curtis, please contact our Advancement Office.        

The IRA Charitable Rollover: Worth a Closer Look

If you have attained age 70.5, have an IRA, and make charitable gifts, the IRA Charitable Rollover is something you should look into. For those who qualify, this is a tax-effective way to make gifts to Curtis.

The IRA Charitable Rollover allows people who are at least 70.5 years old to make charitable gifts of up to $100,000 each year directly from their IRAs. Your "qualified charitable distribution" counts towards the IRA owner's minimum required distribution (MRD) but is not reported as taxable income. Since the distribution is not treated as taxable income, there is no charitable deduction for the gift. For our friends and alumni who support the Curtis Annual Fund, this can be a very attractive way to give.

This technique also makes it possible for those who qualify to fund endowments, such as fellowships and faculty chairs, with multiple-year gifts from IRAs, without having to report the distributions as income. The annual limit of $100,000 applies.

We would be happy to send you a one-page summary of the rules that apply to IRA Charitable Rollover gifts, and we encourage you to consult with your professional tax advisors to see how the IRA Charitable Rollover would work for you. Please call the Curtis advancement office at (215) 893-5279 or contact Charles Sterne III, director of principal gifts and planned giving, at


Charitable Gift Annuities at Curtis

Imagine a charitable gift that pays income for life (an annuity) and generates an attractive income tax deduction. It's no wonder that charitable gift annuities are popular with donors and their financial advisors. For example, a 72-year-old donor can receive a 5.4% annuity from Curtis in return for a gift of $10,000 or more. A portion of the gift is tax-deductible. Gift annuities also provide advantages to donors who give appreciated securities. And currently, gift-annuity rates are very attractive relative to interest rates earned on savings accounts and fixed-income securities.

Some restrictions do apply. For example, Curtis does not issue gift annuities to residents of fifteen states that require onerous registration and/or reporting, or states that restrict how Curtis invests the gift. The minimum age for a Curtis charitable gift annuity is 65. For younger donors or residents of restrictive states, we can offer other options such as charitable remainder annuity trusts and the Curtis Pooled Income Fund. 

To learn more, please contact Charles Sterne III, director of principal gifts and planned giving, at or (215) 717-3126.


    Federal Estate and Gift Tax Update

With the Republican Party now in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, many of us expect significant changes in our tax laws. For example, President Trump has more than once expressed his desire to eliminate the Federal Estate Tax. Those in the estate and financial planning profession are currently in a "wait and see" mode. The last major change in federal tax law, the 2012 American Taxpayer Relief Act, raised the unified estate and gift tax exemption to $5 million. Because the exemption is indexed for inflation, it has risen to $5.490 million for 2017. With the top estate tax rate now at  40%, the estate-tax charitable deduction is a powerful incentive for those with large estates.


Low Interest Rates and the Charitable Lead Trust

The current $5.490 million lifetime estate and gift tax exemption, combined with low interest rates, continues to present an attractive opportunity for high-wealth donors to save on transfers to their heirs. The technique is called a "charitable lead trust."  The IRS discount rate, now 2.4% (August 2017) is what makes this an attractive estate planning technique.  If you'd like to learn more about charitable lead trusts and other trust arrangements that may help you achieve your estate and financial goals while providing much-needed funds to Curtis, please contact your professional advisors or the Curtis advancement office at (215) 893-5279.


Alumni Remember Curtis with Bequests

Curtis is grateful to the hundreds of alumni who regularly support the Curtis Annual Fund, and to the following alumni who arranged for gifts to Curtin their estate plans. Their gifts have strengthened the school's endowment, making it possible for Curtis to be tuition-free and provide support for the training of Curtis students for many years to come.

  • Seymour Lipkin (Piano '47), who died on November 16, 2015, was a beloved member of the Curtis piano faculty from 1969 until his death. "I don't consider my bequest to Curtis as a contribution," he said, "but as a repayment of long-standing debt." Mr. Lipkin's generous bequest will help keep Curtis tuition-free for the next generation of gifted young musicians.
  • William Burns (Double Bass '63) was a member of the double bass section of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for 49 years, starting when Lukas Foss was the orchestra's music director. Mr. Burns studied at Curtis in the early 1960s with Roger Scott. He died at age 73, a month after suffering a stroke. He named Curtis the beneficiary of his retirement plan, which has funded a $1.2 million endowment fund to benefit all Curtis students.

  • Alfred V. Brown (Viola '52) was an accomplished musician, arranger, and producer in New York, and one of the first African-American musicians to succeed in the studio recording business. At Curtis he studied with William Primrose and Karen Tuttle. Through his estate plan, Mr. Brown, who passed away in November 2013, gave Curtis his Max Frirsz viola and a Hill & Sons bow.

  • David Schwartz (Viola '37) became a highly sought-after studio musician in Los Angeles following his early years as a member of the Paganini Quartet and as a founding member of the Yale String Quartet. One of the founders of the Curtis Alumni Association West, David served as its first treasurer and charmed us with an endless supply of stories from the early days of Curtis and the glory days of Hollywood. Early supporters of the school's planned-giving program, David and Jane Schwartz established a family trust which funded a generous gift to the Curtis endowment.
  • Suzanne Hanson Poole (Voice '50) was a generous supporter of the arts in her home state of New Mexico. Over the past two decades, Suzy served as a member of the alumni council, encouraged alumni to give back to the school, and made a substantial gift to the Lenfest-Annenberg Challenge. An additional $1 million gift from Suzy's estate will provide funds to train Curtis students for many years to come. 
  • Gaetano A. Molieri (Viola '35) was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1970 until his retirement in 1999. With a generous bequest in his will, Mr. Molieri established a viola scholarship fund at Curtis in memory of his teacher, William Primrose. In addition, many of Mr. Molieri's friends and Philadelphia Orchestra colleagues have made contributions to the fund in his memory. 
  • Karen Tuttle (Viola '48) left a generous gift to Curtis from her estate. A beloved musician and teacher, Ms. Tuttle first served on the Curtis faculty in 1945 and continued teaching until shortly before her death in 2010.
  • Ralph Berkowitz (Accompanying '35) was an early Curtis faculty member and cellist Gregor Piatigorsky's accompanist for 30 years. As Tanglewood's artistic director, he collaborated with Darius Milhaud, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and Serge Koussevitzky. Ralph endowed a studio at Curtis in memory of his first wife, Freda Pastor Berkowitz, and established the Ralph Berkowitz Fellowship for Curtis pianists.
  • Ingrid Sobolewska (Voice '41) was a student of the legendary voice teacher Madame Euphemia Giannini Gregory, who was a member of the Curtis faculty from 1927 through 1973. When she studied at Curtis, Ms. Sobelewska went by the name Muriel Robertson.
  • Wells Gemberling (Composition '46) left a bequest to Curtis in the name of, and as a memorial to, Sylvia Zaremba. Mr. Gemberling studied composition at Curtis with Rosario Scalero, who also taught Leonard Bernstein (Conducting '41) among many others.
  • Anna Bukay Hannaford (Harp '43) was a student of Carlos Salzedo, one of the original Curtis faculty members in 1924. Through her trust arrangements, Mrs. Hannaford left Curtis her 1946 Lyon and Healy harp.
  • Ellen Faull Gordon (Voice '45) studied voice at Curtis with Madame Gregory and left a generous gift to the school at her death. Her career spanned 40 years on stage and 45 years as a nationally respected teacher. Her daughter, Judith Gordon, told us, "My mother loved her time at Curtis and felt strongly that the investment Curtis makes in young artists is returned in manifold ways." 
  • Barbara Elliott Bailey (Piano '43) studied piano at Curtis with Isabelle Vengerova, a member of the original Curtis faculty. Among other accomplishments in her career, Mrs. Bailey performed as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and collaborated with numerous chamber music groups. She was an active member of the alumni council and one of the first alumni to join the Founder's Society.
  • Eudice Shapiro Kast (Violin '35) studied with legendary violinist Efrem Zimbalist. Her bequest was made in her name and in the name of her late husband, Victor Gottlieb (Cello '35). Ms. Shapiro performed frequently at the Hollywood Bowl. In her later years, she was a master teacher at the USC Thornton School of Music.


Consider a Gift to Curtis in Your Will Because...

  • There is no better way to honor the memory of a loved one than with an endowment gift to Curtis.
  • Since 1928, every Curtis student has received a full-tuition scholarship.
  • Curtis is committed to, and focused on, its core mission: training exceptionally gifted young musicians.
  • For more than 90 years, Curtis has maintained the highest standards of musical excellence.
  • Your gift to Curtis creates a meaningful and enduring legacy.
  • You can, if you wish, direct your gift to provide much-needed financial aid for Curtis students.
  • A gift of $250,000 or more can endow a fellowship for a Curtis student.
  • Your gift becomes part of the Curtis endowment, where it will sustain and ensure the school's full-tuition scholarship policy for many years to come.


The Founder’s Society Comes of Age

Begun in 1992 by a handful of Curtis trustees, the Founder's Society is now celebrating its 25th year! Currently there are 191 Founder's Society members, ranging in age from 26 to 102. Members of the Founder's Society include Curtis alumni, trustees, parents of Curtis students, parents of Curtis alumni, faculty and staff members, and many others who are helping ensure that Curtis will have the financial resources needed in the years ahead.

The Founder's Society is named for Mary Louise Curtis Bok, a visionary dedicated to giving young musicians the very best musical training. At the urging of the school's director, the legendary pianist Josef Hofmann, Mrs. Bok established the school's merit-based full-tuition policy by making an endowment gift of $12.5 million. Although Mrs. Bok died in 1970, her legacy has endured, and Curtis continues to award full scholarships to all students, ensuring that admission is based solely on musical talent and artistic promise.

Once you become a member of the Founder's Society, you'll receive a subscription to Overtonesreceive information about upcoming performances, and be alerted to significant developments at the school. In addition, Founder's Society members are recognized in concert and opera programs and in the school's annual report. To receive a copy of our Founder’s Society brochure and our non-binding "Letter of Intent," please send a message to Charles Sterne III, director of principal gifts and planned giving.


Working With Your Professional Advisors 

This page is updated regularly by the Curtis Institute of Music to inform alumni and friends of Curtis about ways you can help Curtis through your estate and financial-planning arrangements. The information presented here is not intended as tax or legal advice. We encourage you to consult your attorney and tax advisor to discuss how the ideas presented here may apply to your situation.


Contact Us

For additional information about planned gifts, including bequests and life income gifts, or establishing an endowment fund at Curtis, please e-mail Charles Sterne III, director of principal gifts and planned giving, or call (215) 717-3126.