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Curtis Institute of Music Announces Performance Certificate in Improvisation

December 5, 2018 | By Diana Wensley
Communications and Marketing Manager, Curtis Institute of Music

Curtis Announces Performance Certificate in Improvisation

New in 2018–19, the program is the first in North America designed specifically for college-level classical musicians


PHILADELPHIA, PA—December 5, 2018— As a new offering in the 2018–19 school year, the Curtis Institute of Music has established a performance certificate program in improvisation, designed to give existing Curtis students an additional tool for community and audience engagement. Noam Sivan, a notable pioneer in the revival of improvisation in the classical music world and a Curtis faculty member since 2009, will direct the program.

The school has incorporated improvisation into its curriculum over the past several years, prior to the creation of the new certificate program. “Improvisation develops confidence and imagination, and most importantly, it allows our students to apply their knowledge of harmony, counterpoint and ear training to actual playing and performing,” says Jonathan Coopersmith, chair of musical studies at Curtis. “I’m extremely proud that Curtis is offering the first improvisation certificate in North American higher education designed specifically for classical musicians.”

Available to students pursuing any major, the program provides enrollees with individual improvisation lessons and opportunities to perform improvised works on the weekly Student Recital Series, both as soloists and in chamber ensembles. Over the course of two years, students will acquire practical skills in the grammar of improvisation, achieve a solid understanding of musical structure, and develop a personal voice. Collaboration will play a key role in the learning process, as students enhance their ensemble skills through chamber improvisation, develop creative concert programming, and explore partnerships with practitioners of other art forms.

A reinforcement of Curtis’s mission to educate and train exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry, the ability to improvise opens new avenues for concert programming, music pedagogy, and collaborative efforts. Proficiency in improvisation serves as a complement to students’ participation in the artist-citizen curriculum, launched at Curtis in 2014 to equip students with the essential skills they need as musicians in the 21st century.

The performance certificate in improvisation is the second supplementary certificate available to Curtis students. Having recognized supplementary harpsichord study since 2001, Curtis now offers a certificate in historical performance practice under the direction of faculty members Leon Schelhase and Matthew Glandorf.

Director of Improvisation Noam Sivan is a composer, pianist, improviser, conductor, and interdisciplinary artist who has been featured in venues internationally, including Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, Paris’s Salle Cortot, Montreal’s Schulich Hall, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Ravinia Festival, and Tel Aviv Museum.

A notable pioneer in the revival of improvisation in the classical music world, Dr. Sivan has given evening-length improvised piano recitals; conducted orchestral improvisations; and collaborated on multidisciplinary improvisations with musicians, singers, dancers, and actors. His 2017 album Ambiro’s Journey, the first-ever piano improvisation studio album featuring more than 70 minutes of continuous music recorded in a single unedited take, has been described as “a new marker in the evolution of improvisation.” In 2013 he became the first musician from North America invited to perform and lecture at the all-European ERASMUS Improvisation Intensive Project in the Netherlands.

As a pianist, Dr. Sivan premiered his own piano concerto in the triple role of soloist, conductor, and composer. He performed Bach’s Goldberg Variations, followed by his live improvisation on the piece, for an Israeli national TV broadcast. He gave the Asian premiere of the Viktor Ullmann piano concerto with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. His compositions have been presented by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Biennial Festival, Mannes Opera, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, the Horszowski Trio, and many others. 

Born in Israel, Dr. Sivan holds a doctorate from the Juilliard School, where he is also on faculty.  He has taught at Mannes College of Music for ten years, and joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in 2009.

The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry. One of the most selective schools in the United States, Curtis accepts four percent of applicants each year on average. A tuition-free policy ensures that talent and artistic promise are the only considerations for admission. With a small student body of about 175, Curtis ensures that each young musician receives an education of unparalleled quality, distinguished by personalized attention from a celebrated faculty and a “learn by doing” philosophy. Curtis students hone their craft through than 200 orchestra, opera, and solo and chamber music offerings each year in Philadelphia and around the world.



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