Daniel Nesta Curtis
Associate Teaching Professor
Music Director of Contemporary Ensemble
BioDaniel Nesta Curtis is a conductor and educator noted for his adventurous programming, interdisciplinary work, and advocacy for underrepresented composers.
Since moving to Pittsburgh in 2012, Curtis has become a sought-after collaborator, particularly in conducting and producing cutting-edge new music and theatrical productions. In September 2022, Curtis was the Music Director for Quantum Theater and Chatham Baroque’s production of Riccardo Broschi’s 1730 opera, Idaspe. Working with director Claire van Kampen and choreographer Antonia Francheschini, Curtis conducted a period instrument orchestra and an all-star cast that included mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, counter-tenor John Holliday, and tenor Karim Sulayman, in a run of performances that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called “a staggering display of talent.” In the summer of 2019, Curtis collaborated with director Karla Boos, composer Emily Pinkerton, and librettist Maria Jose Galleguillos to create and produce Quantum Theater’s Looking for Violeta, a folk opera about the life and music of Violeta Parra. In September 2018, Curtis collaborated with Karla Boos, composer Wang Lu, projections artist Philip Roca, and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to create the multimedia spectacle Manifold for the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts.
Since 2016, Curtis has been a co-director and the conductor of the new music ensemble Nat 28, a group dedicated to amplifying diverse compositional voices through its Pittsburgh Composers Project and performance of new music in non-traditional spaces. In June 2021, Curtis collaborated with new music ensemble Kamertōn and Quince Vocal Ensemble to premiere Julia Werntz’s microtonal opera The Strange Child at the Alloy Studios, and in May 2019, Curtis music directed and premiered the role of “The Officiant” in Kamertōn’s production of Her Holiness: The Winter Dog by Curtis Rumrill and Zachary Webber, produced through the New Hazlett Theater’s CSA performance series. Curtis also frequently conducts the brass and percussion ensemble, Brass Roots, including in their popular annual Christmas in East Liberty concert at East Liberty Presbyterian Church.
From 2011-2013, Curtis was the Assistant Conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic where he worked alongside Music Director Alan Pierson to produce outside-the-box concert events praised for, “Responding to the histories and needs of its audiences in a way that has been truly inspiring (NY Times, 2012).” Curtis made his debut with the Brooklyn Philharmonic in 2012 conducting Randall Woolf’s Blues for Black Hoodies featuring rapper Wordisbon at the Brooklyn Public Library. Curtis also collaborated with Pierson and the Brooklyn Philharmonic in groundbreaking concerts that featured neo-soul artist Erykah Badu and hip-hop artist Mos Def with orchestral arrangements by composers Ted Hearne and Derek Bermel. Curtis previously served as the Associate Conductor of the Bleecker Street Opera Company and Assistant Conductor of the Amor Artis Chorale and period instrument orchestra in New York.
In November 2016, Curtis made his debut conducting the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony in an interactive family concert featuring Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. In May, 2019, Curtis was named the fourth Music Director of the Pittsburgh Philharmonic, Western Pennsylvania’s oldest volunteer orchestra.
Curtis joined the faculty of the School of Music at Carnegie Mellon University in 2012 as the department’s Resident Conductor and Artistic Director of the CMU Contemporary Ensemble. An Associate Teaching Professor since 2019, Curtis has conducted numerous performances with the CMU Philharmonic, Baroque Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, as well as several operas, including the department’s recent production of Kamala Sankaram and Rob Handel’s techno-noir multimedia opera, Looking at You. With the CMU Contemporary Ensemble, Curtis has premiered more than 200 compositions by CMU students and faculty members including works by Nancy Galbraith, Leonardo Balada, Marilyn Taft Thomas, Reza Vali, and Kate Pukinskis. In 2015 Curtis launched Co-Opera, a collaborative project between CMU’s school of music, school of drama, and Pittsburgh Opera dedicated to incubating and premiering new chamber operas.