Finding Their Own "Sixth Floor"

Curtis will offer on-campus housing for the first time in August 2011. Teddy Abrams (Conducting '08) reflects on the sense of community Lenfest Hall will foster.

Thinking about my three years as a Curtis student always makes me nostalgic. I have vivid memories of the motivating people and beautiful music I encountered, and the whole experience was extraordinary and inspiring.

What is it about this place that had such an impact on my life? Of course I had unforgettable teachers, classes, and musical experiences. But the unique aspect of Curtis that touched me most was the beautiful community that I joined as a student. Between my teachers and colleagues (many of whom remain my closest friends), the staff, and the school’s donors, I found an extended family that provided an endless and ongoing well of support.

The sixth through ninth floors of Lenfest Hall will feature student residence suites like the one pictured here.

The sixth through ninth floors of Lenfest Hall will feature student residence suites like the one pictured above.

This sense of community was immediately evident on the sixth floor of my apartment building in Philadelphia, which was entirely occupied by Curtis students. We worked, talked, argued, played (musically and recreationally), and ate together in a vibrant and often wild environment. I can’t think of a more invigorating and supportive living situation, and I’m very lucky to have had this experience.

However, it was ultimately luck that made this environment possible. We all happened to rent apartments in the same place, but it could easily have happened otherwise. And even with the happy memories, I remember numerous difficulties with my apartment building in Philadelphia: poor security, inattentive management, high prices. It took me well over a semester to feel like a “legitimate” part of Curtis—an experience not uncommon among new students. Once my community began to form, I quickly understood that living, working, and learning side-by-side provides immense added value to a conservatory education, both in musical and personal terms.

Now I know the next generation of students will find their own “Sixth Floor.” Lenfest Hall will ensure that all students, from their first days at school, have a fertile place to develop relationships and build the Curtis community. After reviewing the plans, I am certain this new building will provide a natural platform for students to explore their diverse and brilliant Curtis family. This type of interaction has been happening since Curtis was founded, of course, but the new building will enhance and centralize the opportunities to build community in addition to removing many of the obstacles students encounter as they move to a new city and live on their own. Knowing the exceptional competence of the Curtis staff reassures me that the new building will be a very successful living environment, and I think that new students will also have a much easier time adopting their Curtis identity.

It amazes me that this construction and expansion will not be accompanied by an increase in the number of students (except for a few new guitarists!).  The building simply provides the same 165 students with the best facilities available. With Lenfest Hall, Curtis continues to be a leader in bringing together the most creative and talented artists for generations to come.

Teddy Abrams (Conducting ‘08) is the conducting fellow and assistant conductor of the New World Symphony and a founding member of the 6th Floor Trio.


View other stories in this edition of the Lenfest Hall Newsletter.

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