Daniel Nesta Curtis
Associate Teaching Professor
Music Director of Contemporary Ensemble
Daniel Nesta Curtis is a conductor and educator noted for his adventurous programming and advocacy for underrepresented composers. 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. Curtis has conducted performances with the CMU Philharmonic, Chamber Orchestra, Baroque Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, as well as several fully staged opera productions. With the CMU Contemporary Ensemble, Curtis has premiered more than 150 compositions by CMU students and faculty members including works by Nancy Galbraith, Leonardo Balada, Marilyn Taft Thomas, and Reza Vali. 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. Since 2014, Curtis has directed the CMU Pre-college Millennium Symphony Orchestra, an intensive summer music festival for high-school aged musicians.
For the past several years, Curtis has been a frequent conductor and collaborator with numerous Pittsburgh-based organizations including Nat28 New Music Ensemble, Kamertōn, Quantum Theater, BrassRoots, and Resonance Works. In September 2018, Curtis collaborated with director 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. 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. In the summer of 2019 Curtis collaborated with 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 May 2019, Curtis became the Music Director of the Pittsburgh Philharmonic, Western Pennsylvania’s oldest volunteer orchestra.
From 2011-2013, Curtis was the Assistant Conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic where he worked alongside 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. In November 2016, Curtis made his debut conducting the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony in an interactive family concert at Upper St. Claire High School. 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. Originally from Key West, Florida, Curtis has conducted several orchestras in the Southeast including the Key West Pops Orchestra. Curtis received his BA from Amherst College (2008) and his MM in conducting from Carnegie Mellon University (2012) where he studied with Ronald Zollman and Robert Page.