Thank you for visiting this space. I write with an update as we kick off a new academic year at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.
2016-17 is on track for a strong outcome in Conservatory admissions. There were 1,526 auditionees, up 2% from last year and the highest number in five years. We expect to have an average of around 560 full-time students matriculated over the course of the year. Overall balance across the areas of discipline was on track. Thanks to the admissions team as well as our dedicated faculty that worked diligently to recruit a great class.
We’re excited to build on the success of last year’s Dean’s Symposiums with a new series recently announced here: Peabody Dean’s Symposium Series Welcomes Music Industry Thought Leaders. In this second year we welcome Aaron Dworkin, founder of The Sphinx Organization and Dean of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance; Blair Tindall, author of Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music, the book which formed the basis for Amazon Studio’s show now in its third season; Alex Ross, award-winning writer and chief music critic for The New Yorker; and Peter Sellars, renowned opera and theater director known for his innovative productions, as featured speakers in the 2016-17 Dean’s Symposium Series. The Dean’s Symposium Series provides a platform to discuss the future of music and the issues facing professional musicians today. These four guests are among the most innovative, forward-thinking artists and leaders out there. As practitioners and writers, to a person they are clear-eyed and insightful about the challenges facing our industry and bold in their work to advance music. I look forward to engaging our community in these important conversations.
As Peabody gears up to celebrate the 150th Anniversary this October of Friedberg Hall, Baltimore’s first concert hall, we look forward to a new and improved acoustic with the completion of a first phase of renovation undertaken this past summer. The expansion of the stage as recommended by world-renowned acoustician Larry Kirkegaard of Kirkegaard Associates, will improve onstage hearing for our students especially in large ensembles, as well as heighten the listening experience in the hall. Made possible by a generous gift of $500,000 from the France Merrick Foundation, this represents the first of two phases needed to complete the acoustical and mechanical improvements.
And while we’re on the subject of the hall, we’re delighted to take the step of making all concerts at Peabody free beginning this year. As Peabody seeks to engage our students and faculty more deeply in our community, we look forward to welcoming more of the community to campus as our guests.
We have the privilege of welcoming two Distinguished Visiting Artist faculty to the Institute this year. World renowned violinist, Midori, who will be on campus four times throughout the year for a series of masterclasses and interdisciplinary presentations, and internationally renowned opera star Eric Owens will spend 10 days on campus throughout the year presenting classes and coaching singers. We’re thrilled to have them both in our midst this year.
The task forces working on incorporating 21st century skills directly into our curriculum as well as reimagining the ensembles experience here at Peabody continued their work in earnest this summer. The plan now is to gather further input from constituencies across the Institute this fall with a goal to finalize all details by December. This will allow for the remainder of the year to plan implementation of the new curriculum and initiatives for September 2017. Another key element for the future entails identifying and pursuing new areas of study in the conservatory. The work of these task forces, (as well as the governance and diversity task forces begun last year) and the expansion of existing or development of new areas of study is part of the Breakthrough Plan.
We are delighted also to be the beneficiaries of wonderful gift from Rheda Becker and Bob Meyerhoff for $500,000 to fund the first Peabody Institute Diversity Fund. The Fund will help support initiatives that build diversity in the Institute’s student body, faculty and staff. As part of this gift, Peabody has pledged to raise $500,000 to match Rheda and Bob’s generous commitment, thereby allowing us to double the impact of the work to which we have committed ourselves in this important area.
Finally, as we celebrate the recent release of the Peabody Symphony Orchestra’s first CD on Naxos under the baton of Marin Alsop and featuring the music of Pulitzer-Prize winner and faculty member Kevin Puts, we have already made plans for our second recording on Naxos featuring the music of Aaron Jay Kernis, including his Concerto for Flute co-commissioned by a consortium that includes Peabody, the Detroit Symphony, and others for flute faculty member and renowned soloist, Marina Piccinini. The disc will be conducted by Marin Alsop and visiting conductor Leonard Slatkin, music director of the Detroit Symphony, and is made possible thanks to the generosity of two wonderful friends of Peabody, Allan and Claire Jensen.
As you can see, there is much going on. We expect a very busy year as we move forward on a whole series of new initiatives, all geared towards providing current and future students with the highest level and most forward-looking experience as we prepare them for successful lives in music.
More to come soon.
Fred Bronstein, Dean