Profiles in Giving: Mike Curb


Photo: Curbs and Pres. Troutt
Linda and Mike Curb with President Troutt before being inducted in the Benefactors′ Circle at the beginning of the 2007-08 academic year

Music is Mike Curb’s passion—from classical to hip-hop, with Memphis in between.

“I started school in a racially-mixed public school in Compton, CA, adjacent to Watts,” says Curb, a music industry icon who is founder and chair of Nashville-based Curb Records and The Mike Curb Family Foundation. “I enjoyed it, especially the music. I was exposed to a lot of African-American music, mainly early rock ’n’ roll and rhythm and blues.”

While a student at California State University in the early ’60s, he composed and recorded some of his earliest songs in the university’s music building studios. He also formed his first record company, a predecessor to Curb Records.

It was Curb’s passion for blues, rockabilly, then rock ’n’ roll, “all of which synthesized in Memphis,” he says, that drew him to purchase Elvis Presley’s home on Audubon Drive in 2006, the house Elvis bought in 1956 with earnings from his early hit records.

With a new interest in Memphis, Curb looked up his old friend, Rhodes president Bill Troutt. Their friendship began 15 years ago in Nashville, where Curb had just moved from California, and Troutt was president of Belmont University.

“There was a small music business program at Belmont then, and Bill asked me to get involved,” Curb explains. “Today, the Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business is the largest such entity in the country.”

It’s no surprise, then, that the Curb Institute at Rhodes wasn’t Mike Curb’s idea, either.

“Bill Troutt knew that I love the history of African-American music, and Memphis has always been all about that. The music breaks down barriers between people. The idea for the institute sparked during conversations we had about it, and I recognized that it was a good idea,” Curb says. It went from there.

The institute fosters awareness and understanding of the distinct musical traditions of the South and the impact of music on its culture, history and economy. It aims to provide undergraduate research opportunities that go beyond the gates of Rhodes. With faculty guidance, students assist Rhodes and other institutions in preserving archival materials as well as accumulating and developing primary resources—oral interviews, recordings, instruments, historical printed programs.

“We envision partnerships with Stax Museum, the National Civil Rights Museum, the Blues Foundation and Fisk, Belmont and Vanderbilt universities in Nashville where Curb Foundation initiatives are already under way,” says Troutt.

Figuring out how to relate Elvis’ former home to a liberal arts curriculum required a lot of discussion. Troutt brought in various Rhodes community members—music professors, administrators and students—to help define the issues. The discussion continues, though the initial picture that emerged was clear enough to entice the Nashville mogul to endow the Mike Curb Institute for music at Rhodes.

“The home is part of the Curb Institute, and we’re working with Rhodes about how best it will fit with the college’s educational goals. It could be used for classes or research or study groups,” says Curb.

Characteristically thinking ahead, Troutt says, “Mike Curb’s gift celebrates his appreciation for the contributions of our region’s music to the world. The Curb Institute for Music is another major milestone on our road toward graduating students with the ability to translate academic study and personal concern into effective leadership and action in their communities and the world.”

Update: The Campaign for Rhodes

Now in full swing, the Campaign for Rhodes aims to raise $250 million for the endowment that will provide funds to help attract—and retain—the very best faculty, students and staff.

For more on the exciting aspects of the campaign, please visit “Giving to Rhodes” on the college Web site,, or contact the Development Office staff at 901-843-3850 to learn how you can support these goals.


Challenge grants enable donors and recipients of charitable gifts to strengthen their commitment to one another. The donor, in essence says, “I believe in your program and want to stimulate others to fund it. I also want to see it continue beyond the life of my gift.” The recipient not only benefits from the initial gift but can leverage it to persuade others to contribute to the cause.

Rhodes has been favored with two endowment challenge grants from the Robert and Ruby Priddy Charitable Trust during The Campaign for Rhodes. The first challenged the college to raise $11 million to endow support for our Bonner Scholars in order to receive an additional $1 million from the trust. The most recent Priddy Challenge created the CODA program (Center for the Outreach in the Development of the Arts) and offered $1.5 million if Rhodes could raise $1.5 million for CODA Fellowships. Thanks to the generosity of the Rhodes community both challenges were met early.

Where We Are

(Through January 10, 2008)

 Cash Commitments  $123,750,000
 Deferred Commitments  $23,650,000
 Campaign Total  $147,400,000

The Breakdown

 Scholarships/Fellowships  $51,500,000
 Academic & Faculty support  $76,000,000

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