Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, PA

Legendary Curtis Institute of Music Uses Social Media to Create a Vibrant Community of Music Lovers

Classical music aficionados, alumni, neighbors, patrons, students, donors, applicants and friends are finding community in their love of music and their connection to the 87 year old elite music academy.

The Curtis Institute of Music had numerous disparate communities looking for information about applying to the school, performance details and information about former colleagues and graduates. Jennifer Kallend, director of Public Relations, decided to put all this activity into one online location and invite constituents to “share the love” on Facebook. Now with 3,000+ fans, Curtis’ Facebook page is dynamic and welcoming and has spun off a specialized area for alumni only to share more intimate conversations about their relationship with school and their current career trajectories.

The Curtis Symphony Orchestra

Curtis –one of the few tuition-free music academies in the US– has a unique constituency. Based on the theory that gifted musicians “learn by doing,” it offers a rich annual performance schedule featuring students and alumni.

Communications staff sought ways to engage the Curtis “family” with all that was happening at the conservatory and to invite interested music lovers into the discussion. One of the first outreach efforts was a holiday video – featuring students and faculty talking about their favorite moments of the year – which was posted on Instant Encore, the Institute’s dedicated YouTube channel and on its website.

Key elements of the online “repertoire” of the Institute are low-barrier-to-entry, two-minute audio slide shows — with musical performance excerpts — giving visitors a vicarious concert experience. These mini performances have attracted the greatest number of views, especially from friends of the Institute or its students who don’t live locally and want to participate in the programming.

Other popular offerings include performance videos which can be streamed and brief – You are There – videos of events and activities the Institute offers, such as the Curtis Symphony Orchestra seasons in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, and a partnership with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Spiral Q Puppet Theater in a citywide interactive art event. Communications staff has stopped creating “talking head” video interviews as they don’t engage music lovers in a vibrant experience. The most important aspect of all Curtis’ uses of social media is to drive traffic to its rich website which contains many options for engaging with artists, students and performances.

“What I’ve found to get the most views is actually the least complicated product to create – and audio slide show with a 2 minute excerpt of a performance. I can make it using Windows Movie Maker right on my Windows system! It’s an easy way to help far flung friends and family participate in our concerts and feel part of Curtis. The most important thing is to create a comfortable space for everyone who cares about the institution to find what they need and ‘share their love’ of Curtis,” said Jennifer Kallend, Director of Public Relations.

Proof points:

  • Brief audio slide shows — with musical performance excerpts — attract the greatest number of YouTube views
  • The most important aspect of all Curtis’ uses of social media is to drive traffic to its rich website

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