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Piano Teacher Celebrates 83 Years At Curtis Institute of Music

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Curtis Institute of Music has honored a giant among the legends who’ve gone through the storied institution. She has spent more than three-quarters of her life there, and, she turns 100 next month.

KYW’s Steve Tawa watched her conduct a lesson.

Eleanor Sokoloff sat in her rocking chair, lined up to the keyboard side of the Bosendorfer in her Rittenhouse Square home, and after the elegant, melodic counterpoint of Bach, had a question for 14-year-old student Nina Hu.

“What do they call you at school, like Nina Hurricane or Nina Tornado?” Sokoloff asked.

A stormy Chopin Etude provided the answer.

“She has tremendous power, for a little girl.”

In 1931, Sokoloff entered Curtis as a teenaged student, then stayed as a teacher.

Through the generations of gifted students the venerated master has mentored, are their differences musically or technically?

“Well, the standards have risen each time we have auditions. The quality is better certainly than it was when I auditioned,” says Sokoloff.

Sokoloff says while they hit the basics like fingering, rhythm and tone, expressive music-making is the goal.

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