Rhinegold Photo credit: Jiyang Chen
A role model for aspiring pianists: Michelle Cann

Josephine Miles

Curtis names Michelle Cann inaugural Eleanor Sokoloff Chair in Piano Studies

4:04, 19th November 2020

The Curtis Institute of Music has announced that Michelle Cann will join its faculty as the inaugural Eleanor Sokoloff Chair in Piano Studies

The new position was created in memory of pianist Eleanor Sokoloff, who died aged 106 in July 2020 after serving 84 years on Curtis’s teaching faculty. In response to Sokoloff’s desire to see more women on the Curtis faculty, the new position will be held only by forward-thinking female pianists.

Michelle Cann graduated with an Artist’s Diploma from Curtis in 2013 and subsequently became a Community Artist fellow and collaborative staff pianist at the Institute. She appears regularly in recital and as a chamber musician throughout the US, China and South Korea.

In 2019, Cann served as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s MAC Music Innovator in recognition of her role as an African American classical musician who demonstrates artistry, innovation and a commitment to education and community engagement. She has also been the director of two children’s choruses in the El Sistema-inspired program Play On Philly.

Michelle Cann said: ‘A decade after enrolling at Curtis, I am honoured to continue my connection to this great institution as a member of the piano faculty. I have learned a lot throughout my life about the importance of mentorship and the value of being a musician with meaningful relationships to our communities. I am excited to mentor my students, inspiring them to shape careers that will encompass all they have to offer as musicians while connecting with audiences in an impactful way.’

Cann will work with Curtis students in individual lessons and chamber coaching sessions, teaching remotely while the school operates online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Robert McDonald, the Penelope P Watkins Chair in Piano Studies and Cann’s former teacher, commented: ‘Michelle Cann’s gifts as a performer and the degree of dedication, vision and experience she offers as an educator will make her a much-valued addition to the piano department at Curtis. She is a wonderful example of what it means to be a vital, fully engaged citizen of our profession and, as such, a role model for aspiring pianists.’

Eleanor Sokoloff (1914-2020) Photo: David Swanson

The Eleanor Sokoloff Chair was made possible by the support of the Sokoloff family and Curtis alumnus William A Horn. ‘We are humbled by the generosity and vision that allowed for the creation of this chair,’ said Curtis President and CEO Roberto Díaz. ‘This new position extends Eleanor Sokoloff’s important legacy by ensuring that women have a prominent place among our faculty, and I am excited for Michelle to share her immense talents and musical voice with our students for years to come.’

curtis.edu | michellecann.com

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