Curtis Institute Names Jonathan Biss to Faculty

11.01.10
Jonathan Biss
Philadelphia Inquirer

By Peter Dobrin

Jonathan Biss, the young concert pianist with a substantial international career, is taking his first faculty position: at the Curtis Institute of Music, his alma mater.

Biss, 30, based in New York, will join the Curtis roster next fall.

“I’m starting right at the top,” said Biss Monday from his Georgia stop on a U.S. tour with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. “For the last five or six years I’ve been coming to Curtis about once a year to do master classes, but I’ve not had a student in my charge — so that’s going to be a new experience.”

Biss, who graduated from Curtis in 2001 after studies with Leon Fleisher and others, said he will take on two or three students, and because of his busy concert schedule, will share each of them with other faculty.
He said that part of the reason for moving into teaching was “entirely selfish in that you learn a huge amount. Whenever I am forced to verbalize my ideas about music it…clarifies priorities.”

Biss embodies the kind of musical lineage coveted by Curtis culture. His grandmother was Raya Garbousova, the Tbilisi-born cellist for whom Samuel Barber composed his Cello Concerto. He is the son of violinist Miriam Fried and violist/violinist Paul Biss, and studied at Indiana University before coming to Curtis, where, although a Fleisher student, he also worked with Gary Graffman, Claude Frank, Seymour Lipkin and even members of the string and wind departments.

“The years I spent at Curtis as a student were amazing,” he said. “It was such a big experience for me I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of a musician I would have been without it, so the chance to come back and feel a part of that tradition is exciting and an honor. To make a difference in a student’s life possibly in some way is powerful.”

The current Curtis piano faculty has eight members: Leon Fleisher (on leave this year), Claude Frank, Gary Graffman, Seymour Lipkin, Meng-Chieh Liu, Robert McDonald, Eleanor Sokoloff and Ignat Solzhenitsyn.