I was backstage at the Kimmel Center the other night when the Curtis Symphony Orchestra prepared for a performance of Messiaen's Turangalila-symphonie. Click on the photos, or here for the video.

It was the final concert for student members of the Class of 2011, and was conducted by Christoph Eschenbach.

I've just started shooting a long term project at The Curtis Institute of Music, for a series that will run in the newspaper and on philly.com in the fall, when the exclusive, tutition-free conservatory opens a new facility on the 1600 block of Locust Street. It's the school's first major expansion in more than two decades, and will have a new orchestra rehearsal space, expanded teaching and practice rooms, and for the first time, student residences and a dining hall.

It's going to be fun. I like classical music, I like hanging out behing the scenes, and I especially like sharing little-known things I see with readers. In the case of Curtis, most of it is hidden away. Other than the excellent free Student Recital Series (the best live music deal in town-more than two hundred free public performances every year) most Philadelphians don't know much about what happens inside the old Curtis mansion on Rittenhouse Square (Curtis published The Saturday Evening Post and The Ladies' Home Journal). You know, the buidling in the opening scenes of Trading Places...

... the movie where Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy), acting blind and legless in the park, hustles a woman - "Hey, baby, what's happening? How are ya doing? Once you have a man with no legs, you never go back, baby. I know what you're thinkin. You seen Porgy and Bess?" - and seconds later meets Louis Winthorpe, III (Dan Aykroyd) for the first time on the Curtis front steps -  the "Heritage Club" in the film.