RRC Blog

A language all America should know : composer, William Frederick Cardin "Pejawah"

Posted by Claire Thai, student archives assistant on 2/16/21 9:55 AM

Fred Cardin headshot, circa 1927, Curtis ArchivesWilliam Frederick Cardin, also known as Pejawah (Big Cat), pioneered the recognition of Native American music as an integral part of mainstream American culture. His accomplishments both as a composer and violinist were second to none—but a successful career was not his only ambition; he sought to bring awareness to Native American music and art. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer he stated: “The music of the Indian tells a story of those trees. It talks of flowers and grass and hills and valleys in a language all America should know. It is an important and valuable part of the Nation’s heritage, and it should not be allowed to die.” i

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Topics: Curtis Archives and Library

The Legacy of Ursula Guy Curd

Posted by Claire Thai, student archives assistant on 2/4/21 10:21 AM

Ursula Guy CurdUrsula Guy Curd (1890-1988) was an African American pianist admitted to the first class at the Curtis Institute of Music in 1924. Her musical ability was described as “unforgettable” with “clear tone and marvelous touch” by the 1942 Pittsburgh Courier—but to limit her memory to that of just an excellent pianist would sell her accomplishments short. She was a founding member of the Omega Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, a sorority dedicated to the advancement of education and culture of African American women. From the early 1900s to today, Alpha Kappa Alpha has been at the forefront of social action for African Americans, from creating the first congressional lobby to advocate for better working and living conditions to establishing the American Council of Human Rightsi. In addition to her performance career and her social contributions, she was a teacher in the Philadelphia Public School System, a prolific piano teacher to students in Philadelphia, wife to Dr. Kirksey Curd, and mother to Ursula A. Curd (more affectionately known as “little Ursie”).

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Topics: Curtis Archives and Library

The Curtis Radio Program Spotlights Early Talent in Curtis’s History

Posted by Pete Williams on 2/3/21 4:06 PM

Throughout its history, Curtis has had maintained relationships with local media interested in broadcasting Curtis performances. Curtis has a long and successful relationship with local radio and TV stations like WHYY and continues to broadcast its own streaming (and, these days, “socially distant”) performances on its YouTube channel.

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Topics: Curtis Archives and Library

Student Life at Curtis

Posted by Kristina Wilson on 1/28/21 9:00 AM

For nearly 100 years students have attended Curtis for music practice and study.

But when they were not in lessons, rehearsals, a practice room, or a classroom, how did they spend their time? Where did they live? What did they do in their leisure hours? And how did the aspects of student life change over the years? Take a glimpse into the daily lives of Curtis students through the decades, based on photographs and archival materials donated by alumni to the Curtis Archives, as well as oral history recollections from faculty and alumni.

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Topics: Residence Life, Curtis Archives and Library, Community, Students, History

Conducting at Curtis

Posted by Kristina Wilson on 12/3/20 9:00 AM

The Curtis Symphony Orchestra serves to train a new generation of musicians. But what of the conductors who lead it?

The conductors who have led the Curtis Symphony Orchestra (CSO) - beginning with Leopold Stokowski in 1924 - have each left their unique stamp, culminating in the truly unique musical ensemble the CSO is today.

The early years (1924-1931)

The Curtis orchestra met for the first time on November 14, 1924 in the Comm

on Room. Just six years later it had performed in the Academy of Music and Carnegie Hall, broadcast concerts on radio, and played for Curtis’s first opera production, Eugene d’Albert’s Tiefland.


The school’s early success was due in large part to the close friendship between its founder, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, and Leopold Stokowski, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Stokowski saw Curtis as the perfect springboard for musicians to enter the Philadelphia Orchestra, taking charge of the orchestra himself to fully achieve his vision. Furthermore, all instrumental faculty were members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and thus known to Stokowski. According to the Curtis Catalogue in 1926, “... the students of The Curtis Institute of Music receive the training which has made the Philadelphia Orchestra the foremost in the World."

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Topics: History