Curtis Institute Honors Dick Doran

Dick Doran - photo David DeBalko
At a Curtis Wednesday tea in 2004, from left to right, former Curtis director Gary Graffman, Dick Doran and violinist Victor Danchenko. Photo: David DeBalko.

Tuesday's dedication of Curtis' Lenfest Hall sang the praises of many - the architects, donors, Curtis director Roberto Diaz, and executive vice president Elizabeth Warshawer. The most ardent tones were saved for H.F. "Gerry" and Marguerite Lenfest, who are the school's biggest benefactors since Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist put the Curtis Institute of Music's original endowments in place.

All this praise was, of course, much earned.

But one name that deserved mention never was. I hesitate to identify him, since he was always happy to work behind the scenes. But it's important to remember, especially now I think, how much Dick Doran had to do with the success the school is experiencing.

It was surely the vision of Diaz and the money and might of Lenfest that are responsible for Curtis' first custom-built facility for music - with its spacious orchestra rehearsal hall, practice rooms, teaching studios and chamber music rehearsal spaces (plus a dorm and dining hall).

But it was Doran - an affable and selfless civic, political and business leader of the sort that may not exist much anymore - who pushed to have Lenfest follow him as chairman of the Curtis board. Doran, who died in 2007, was a man of influence, but not great means, and he understood the value of having someone with great means as chairman. Unknown to Lenfest not too long ago, Curtis is now the love of his life.

It was also Doran who promoted the idea of plucking Diaz from the Philadelphia Orchestra as the school's new director. Diaz had led a viola section, but there wasn't much else at the time he was hired to indicate how well his intelligence and diplomacy would serve Curtis. In this way, Doran was a canny talent scout.

Neither Curtis grandees nor Mayor Nutter made any public acknowledgment of Doran at Tuesday's celebration. But the school has made a more lasting gesture of gratitude: on the fourth floor, Diaz chose a room to be named in Doran's honor. It is the Richard A. Doran Teaching Studio. And should any nascent violinist or pianist someday wonder who he was or what his importance might have been, all he or she need do is to take a good look around at how beautifully Curtis' artistic soul has taken form in glass and stone.