Blissfully transported

After weeks of slogging through the muck of Jerry Sandusky and young boys, Herman Cain and other women, Peter Dobrin's series on the Curtis Institute of Music was an invigorating, cleansing shower ("A gem on the global stage," Sunday).

We search for fulfillment in a rat race in which only the rats win. Thus, the simple things are still the best. The photo by Tom Gralish of the blissfully transported young violinist on your Sunday front page tells that story.

Yu-Ting Chen has a talent that most of us don't, and not just musically. A 15-year-old violinist understands that beauty, and fulfillment, are right under our fingertips.

Kenneth M. Foti, Malvern

How to transform the world

To me, this series on the Curtis Institute illustrates a much broader point: Children will respond incredibly well to an adult who excels and is passionately committed to any activity. What would it take for every child in Philadelphia, especially those in underserved communities, to have a choice of programs in cooking, art, business, design, mechanics - the list has no end? Why can't we figure out a way to do this? It would transform the world.

Sandra Choukroun, Penn Valley

An inspiring institution

Three cheers to Peter Dobrin for his fantastic, in-depth series on the Curtis Institute of Music. It is inspiring to read about how the institution is thriving in challenging times, and developing innovative approaches for students to carve out new career paths and make an impact as musicians, entrepreneurs, and "citizen ambassadors" of the arts. Reading these stories should make all Philadelphians proud.

Elisabeth Flynn, Philadelphia

Some news heartening, some not

The series on the Curtis Institute of Music opens a window into one of the most prestigious music conservatories in the world. It's also heartening to know that many graduates, some out of necessity but also with a desire to better our world, are taking an interest in filling a very real need for underprivileged kids with start-up music programs.

However, it's disheartening to read that America has walked away from classical music. We always claim to be exceptional, yet, in this area, in addition to our dismal math and science scores internationally, we are woefully inadequate. Parents need to encourage diligent practice and tenacity with their kids, whether it's an interest in sports or music. Parents also must listen to and appreciate classical music along with their kids. Guitar Hero and Rock Band just don't cut it.

Sue Busch, Newtown

Self-serving natural gas report

How convenient that a new industry-sponsored report on the economic benefits of natural gas production ("Study tallies shale-gas benefits," Tuesday) ignores the environmental and health costs associated with extraction and processing. This is the same tactic that the fossil-fuel industry uses to "evaluate" proposed regulations for air-pollution emissions - except in that situation it focuses exclusively on the costs and ignores all of the benefits of cleaner air and fewer health problems. Every energy source has costs and benefits; to consider one but not the other is disingenuous and, in this case, self-serving.

Stephen P. Kunz, Phoenixville, spkunz@aol.com

Salaries of college presidents

The front-page article on salaries paid to local and national college presidents was well-taken, despite flawed apples-oranges comparisons - i.e., non-salary items seem to get mixed in with straight pay ("Area college heads among highest-paid," Monday). A great follow-up would be a similar brief on the compensation accorded to college football coaches vs. Nobel laureates. I can't imagine who gets paid more there.

Frank Lynch, Exton

Nominees sought for Dilworth award

As district attorney and as mayor, Richardson Dilworth put his unmistakable stamp on Philadelphia. He elevated the Planning Commission to national prominence and redrew the map of Center City. He created the first housing office and the Redevelopment Authority, and poured millions of dollars into housing for the poor. He expanded the airport and established the country's first percent-for-art program. As one observer has noted, because of Dilworth, "people began to believe in the city."

More important, he and political ally Joseph Clark implemented the critical parts of the new City Charter to abolish row offices that had been huge sources of patronage for the machine. They required civil-service exams for all employees - the death knell of the spoils system. The new system ensured that all residents had a fair shot at city jobs, including African Americans.

Of all Dilworth's outstanding characteristics, his most notable was his fearlessness. He was utterly unafraid of what people might say or do. While campaigning, he ferociously went after his opponents and drove into neighborhoods dominated by the GOP. In 1957, he moved his family to what is now Society Hill, which at that time was a dicey neighborhood.

In honor of Dilworth's great legacy, I have established the Richardson Dilworth Award for Distinguished Public Service. This award will be an annual tribute to a city employee whose tenure, like Dilworth's, embodies hard work, integrity, and outstanding stewardship of the public trust. More important, it will remind Philadelphians every year to be vigilant so that we do not slide back, but instead celebrate how far we have come.

I urge you to nominate an outstanding public employee for this award; the deadline is Dec. 31. For more information, visit www.dilworthaward.org.

Michael A. Nutter, mayor, Philadelphia