Connecting Performers With the Power of Music: Christianne Orto
Christianne Orto (1965–2020) was the Dean of Distance Learning and Recording Arts at Manhattan School of Music until her passing in February, 2020. Because of her exceptionally generous donation to our conservatory, her pioneering work will continue to strengthen and grow, based in its newly named home, The Orto Center.
Christianne was raised in Westfield, New Jersey, studied piano as a child, and later earned performance and musicology degrees from Barnard College and Columbia University. Early in her career, a fascination with the recording process led to positions as producer for classical recording labels such as Sony Classical, Angel EMI, and BMG Classics, working on recordings for the Canadian Brass, mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, violinist Hillary Hahn, pianists Evgeny Kissin and Alicia deLarrocha, and the Waverly Consort.
In 1996, then-MSM President Marta Casals Istomin recruited Christianne to head the School’s recording department and to develop a distance learning program. Initially, she worked closely on technology that would allow Pinchas Zukerman to teach his students remotely when he was out of town, expanding the program to include live-streamed master classes from other great artists, such as Metropolitan Opera baritone Thomas Hampson. Collaborating with musical institutions around the world, Christianne developed programming that provides primary, secondary, and higher education schools with instruction in a wide range of musical genres, reflecting the diverse offerings at MSM. A more recent focus has been on the development of an online degree completion program, still to be launched, that is geared toward performing artists who left their formal collegiate studies early due to professional opportunities. The first of its kind at a major conservatory, MSM’s Distance Learning Program is now regarded as “the gold standard in music distance learning” and has had a wide reaching and enormous impact on professional music education.
Christianne retired from MSM as Dean of Distance Learning and Recording Arts, shortly before her death this February. She wrote at that time: “Manhattan School of Music has been central to my life for almost 25 years, and my abiding joy comes with the knowledge that I have built a global arts community.”
Christianne’s work enabled untold thousands across the globe to connect and experience the power and beauty of music. In addition, the advanced technology that Christianne helped develop—a dedicated fiber-optic network for music instruction, and the optimization of video technology for live music transmission—has become increasingly vital to us all, especially in this time of social distancing and curtailed public performance.
Beyond her accomplishments and keen focus on the highest standards, Christianne was known as a gentle, respectful, ebullient spirit. MSM President James Gandre has stated, “Those of us who had the exceptional privilege to know her well know she didn’t have a mean bone in her body, and she was the most ‘pure’ person with whom I have ever worked. Our School has benefitted greatly from having her in our community.”
Manhattan School of Music is fortunate that Christianne’s devotion to music and the education of young musicians led her to make a generous planned gift to endow our distance learning programming. In recognition of her legacy and the vast impact she made, the School has plans to inaugurate “The Orto Center” to focus on the local and international connections between e-learning and teaching pedagogy with digital media and recording arts. The global community she helped build will now continue in perpetuity.
Making a gift to MSM was Christianne’s way of ensuring that music of quality and excellence will be available for generations to come. Much as her work did in her lifetime, her legacy gift will transcend time and space to touch the lives of countless future recipients.
You can impact the future of Manhattan School of Music, too, when you include a gift to us in your will or other estate plan. Contact Susan Madden at 917-493-4115 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how to create a legacy that meets your financial needs and charitable goals.
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