Curtis Institute of Music to start classical guitar program

The Curtis Institute of Music - long a conservatory with primacy in orchestral, vocal, piano, and solo career training - will inaugurate a new instrumental program next fall: classical guitar.

David Starobin, the venerable guitarist, and Jason Vieaux, a more recent star in the field, will be the program's two professors. The school is taking applications now, and will hold auditions in the spring and accept as many as four students who would matriculate a year from now.

It is Curtis' first new program since expanding into harpsichord two decades ago, and is the manifestation of Curtis director Roberto Díaz's desire to encourage new areas of emphasis.

The guitar program is made possible by the largesse of new board member Baroness Nina von Maltzahn, whose Fondation Charidu provided $1.5 million to endow a faculty chair. That was matched with a gift of equal value from Curtis board chairman H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest. Curtis is increasingly engaging support internationally; Maltzahn and her husband, Lothar von Maltzahn, live in Berlin.

The selection of Starobin and Vieaux is consistent with the school's intensified focus on augmenting musical education with training in career management and entrepreneurial skills. Starobin, 58, is not only a highly respected guitarist, but also founder of a recording company, Bridge Records. He maintains an artist-management arm with a small roster of musicians. Vieaux, 37, an Astral Artists alum and head of the guitar department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, has fashioned a visible solo and chamber music career. Both have been active in spurring the creation of new repertoire for their instrument.

Each guitar student will study with both Starobin and Vieaux - another shift at the school, where, in the past, pupils have often maintained fidelity to a single faculty member.

The Lenfest gift is part of an ongoing program established by the Philadelphia philanthropist in which he has offered as much as $17 million in matches for gifts from others to endow faculty positions. To date, he has given $12 million through the challenge.

Contact music critic Peter Dobrin at or 215-854-5611. Read his blog at artswatch.