Press

September 03, 2013

Over 30,000 students enrolled in Jonathan Biss and the Curtis Institute’s Coursera course on Beethoven’s piano sonatas

To read last Sunday’s New York Times Arts + Leisure piece, click here.

To watch a preview of the course, click here.

To sign-up for the course, click here.

​Pianist Jonathan Biss and the Curtis Institute of Music have partnered with Coursera—the leading provider of “massive online open courses” (MOOCs)—to offer a free, online course on Beethoven’s piano sonatas. This subject is close to Biss’s heart, as he recently released Volume 2 of a decade-long project to record all of the pieces. Over 30,000 people have enrolled in the course to date: seven times the total number of students who have attended Curtis since the school opened its doors in October 1924.

The 5-week course launches this Tuesday, September 3, 2013—the first day of Curtis classes—and is aptly named “Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas.” Biss has posted recommended reading and listening materials here. In the course description, Biss writes, “It is not necessary to have studied an instrument or to have any knowledge of music theory to take the course. Rather, it is designed for students of all backgrounds who have a desire to learn more about Beethoven and his world.”

Of the collaboration with Curtis—where Biss is both an alumnus and the Neubauer Family Chair in Piano Studies professor in Piano Studies—he says, “I am so thrilled to be working with Curtis on this new endeavor. As a musician, whether I’m performing, rehearsing, teaching, or even just listening, my greatest joy—the whole point, really—is in sharing music. I am enormously grateful to Curtis for the incomparable education I received there, and for the constant creative stimulation I find in working with its students today. But now, through Coursera, I have the opportunity to connect with students and lovers of music on a scale I never imagined was possible. As much as I cherish the one-on-one interaction I have with the students within Curtis’s walls, I find this opportunity to share that experience with people the world over incredibly exciting.”

Coursera offers classes that are free of charge and are designed to help the student master the material. A key factor in the design of the Coursera system is the extensive use of interactive exercises. Within videos, there are multiple opportunities for interactions: the video frequently stops, and students are asked to answer a simple question to test whether they are tracking the material. There will also be stand-alone homework that is not part of video lectures. Students can watch Biss’s lectures at their leisure, but the classes are structured with regular deadlines. Each student who completes the course will receive a statement of accomplishment at the end of the series.

Curtis will a launch a second Coursera class in October titled “From the Repertoire: Western Music History through Performance.” Taught by Jonathan Coopersmith, chair of Musical Studies, and David Ludwig (‘01), Gie and Lisa Liem Artistic Chair of Performance Studies and a member of the composition faculty, the course illuminates Western music history through explorations of seminal works over the past six centuries.


​Jonathan Biss has appeared with the world’s foremost orchestras and has performed recitals and chamber music throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Widely regarded not only for his artistry and poetic interpretations but also for his deep musical curiosity, Biss performs a diverse repertoire ranging from Mozart and Beethoven, through the Romantics to Janáček and Schoenberg as well as works by contemporary composer Gyorgy Kurtág and including commissions from Leon Kirchner, Lewis Spratlan and Bernard Rands. Biss has a noted recording career. His recordings include an album of Schubert sonatas and two short Kurtág pieces that NPR Music named as one of the best albums of the year. His recent albums for EMI won Diapason d’Or de l’année and Edison awards. In January 2012, Onyx Classics released the first CD in a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas. Biss studied at Indiana University and at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he joined the piano faculty in 2011 and was appointed the Neubauer Family Chair in Piano Studies in 2012. Biss’s bestselling eBook, Beethoven’s Shadow, published by RosettaBooks in 2011, was the first Kindle Single written by a classical musician. For more information, go to jonathanbiss.com.

The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level. One of the world’s leading conservatories, Curtis provides its 165 students with full-tuition scholarships and personalized attention from a celebrated faculty. The school’s distinctive “learn by doing” approach has produced an impressive number of notable artists since its founding in 1924. Curtis alumni hold principal chairs in every major American orchestra, and each season they are featured as guest soloists with the world’s leading orchestras, opera houses and chamber music series. Curtis’s innovative programs encourage students to perform often and hone 21st-century musical skills, and the school’s facilities offer superb spaces for music-making as well as state-of-the-art technologies to enhance learning. Students perform internationally with Curtis On Tour in addition to more than 150 performances in and around Philadelphia each year. When they graduate, they become musical leaders, making a profound impact on music around the globe. For more information, visit Curtis.edu.

Coursera is on a mission to change the world by educating millions of people by offering classes from top universities and professors online for free. Coursera’s comprehensive education platform combines mastery-based learning principles with video lectures, interactive content and a global community of peers, offering students from around the world a unique online learning experience. Coursera has partnered with top-tier universities to provide courses across a broad range of disciplines, including medicine, literature, history, and computer science, among others. Coursera is backed by leading venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates. For more information, visit Coursera.org.