Alan Curle: A Life Marked by Music

Alan Curle: A Life Marked by Music

Andrew London and Alan Curle

A recent $1 million estate commitment from Alan E. Curle, MD, an anesthesiologist at Highland Hospital, will establish an unrestricted scholarship at the Eastman School of Music. A deep appreciation and passion for music prompted this gift. Music has always been an important part of Curle’s life.

Growing up
Curle grew up in Tennessee, where music played a key role in his life from an early age. He sang in the church choir and in school ensembles from the time he was in grade school through his undergraduate years at Rhodes College, and he continued while in medical school and residency.

“I was blessed to have been taught by gifted and generous musicians over all of those years, including Billy Christian, Kathy Thiel, Tony Garner, Diane Clark, and, most recently, Stephen Kennedy,” says Curle.

Curle’s father, Ray E. Curle, MD, was also an anesthesiologist whose greatest passion was music, too. “After a hiatus of 30 years, my father returned to playing his oboe and English horn when he stopped working,” adds Curle. “Retirement for him has meant playing in three orchestras over almost three decades—he is such an inspiration to me.”

Compline at Christ Church
Curle came to Rochester in 1993 to begin his medical career. After singing in several church choirs, he discovered that the service of compline was being offered at Christ Church by the Schola Cantorum under the direction of Stephen Kennedy. He joined that group, now an acclaimed vocal and instrumental ensemble of the Eastman School of Music that performs during the school year at the church. The group specializes in Gregorian chant as well as Renaissance and Baroque choral music—the type of music that touches Curle to his core.

“I recall dashing from the operating room to a Schola rehearsal in preparation for our first recording,” says Curle. “The juxtaposition between the craziness of a medical environment and the quiet of the church was profound—and it was the sacred music we sang in that amazing space that facilitated a powerful transformation in me.”

In seats and on the radio
Today, Curle’s schedule doesn’t allow for much rehearsal and performance time. But for him, musical transformation comes from both listening as well as performing. His car is always set to classical music and his house is often filled with the sounds of Corelli, Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, and other similar composers.

Instrumental and choral music from Renaissance to Baroque periods are Curle’s favorites. He also enjoys larger choral works, especially music inspired by mass, including those by Bach, Brahms, Mozart, Duruflé, and Verdi. Curle and London have also enjoyed small ensemble works at Eastman’s Kilbourn Hall. “Chamber music, in particular, is translucent,” he adds. “It shimmers, and is light without being thin. It’s like a conversation among friends.”

Curle and London find music to their liking in many different venues. Recently, they attended a Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra performance of a Mozart opera. Before that, they attended a fundraiser to support the renovation of Notre Dame’s organ, which they both heard played by David Higgs, professor of organ at Eastman on a visit to Paris last year, as well as a benefit concert of chamber music for Foodlink.

In his mother’s honor
For nearly 20 years, Curle has supported a number of students at Eastman through the Choral Scholars program. When his mother passed away a few years ago, he commissioned an anthem from one of his early scholars, Eastman graduate Zachary Wadsworth, who is now on faculty at Williams College.

In March of 2018, the work “Beyond the Years” had its premiere by the Schola Cantorum of Christ Church. Unfortunately Alan’s father was unable to attend, so Curle approached his undergraduate alma mater and its choir (of which he used to be a member) to see if they would consider performing it. In April, the Rhodes College choir made it a centerpiece of their spring concert with Curle, London, his father, and family members in attendance.

“It was a defining experience, a fabulous performance, and a beautiful tribute to my mother,” says Curle. “The experience all made possible by music.”

For more on Alan Curle’s generosity, readHighland Hospital Physician Endows Scholarship at the Eastman School of Music.

Kristine Thompson, June 2019