Early fall on campus is always an exciting time, full of promise and potential and new beginnings. This is very true as the fall semester begins at Peabody this year, and I’m pleased to share with you some of the news and updates from our Mount Vernon home.
New Initiatives from the Office of the Dean
Two new initiatives focused on fostering innovation and creativity at Peabody take root this year, both designed to provide a framework for experimentation while exploring new directions in our field. The Dean’s Incentive Grants announced last spring provide opportunities for both students and faculty to propose innovative projects, especially those with an interdisciplinary or community focus. And a new series of five Dean’s Symposiums will highlight interesting and innovative approaches to classical music today and the people who are driving that innovation. Building on the success of last fall’s “What’s Next for Classical Music?” symposium, this year’s series expands to include guests Norman Lebrecht, journalist, critic, writer, and creator of Slipped Disc – An Inside Track on Classical Music and Related Cultures; David Handler and Justin Kantor, co-founders of NYC alternative venue, Le Poisson Rouge; Howard Herring, president and chief executive officer of the New World Symphony; Claire Chase, founder and artistic director of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE); and Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. These five sessions, conversational in nature, will offer a unique glimpse of innovation in our world and ensure Peabody’s voice is active in this important conversation. All sessions will be streamed and available on-line.
Several positions emerging from last year’s restructure of Institute administration have added new faces to the executive team. Townsend Plant began on September 1st in the new associate dean of enrollment & student life position. Townsend brings a wonderful breadth of experience in the area of enrollment management, honed at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and most recently at Ithaca College. Similarly, Sarah Hoover has quickly taken the reins of the newly created role of special assistant to the dean for innovation, interdisciplinary partnerships, and community initiatives, and is hard at work in beginning to bring a new strategic focus to this portfolio. This is a homecoming of sorts for Sarah, who completed her DMA in voice at Peabody.
On the faculty front, we have had several recent important announcements. Gustav Meier, whose unique contributions made Peabody’s conducting program one of distinction and importance, announced his retirement. This in turn provided an opportunity for a very exciting appointment: Marin Alsop, who has previously worked from time to time with our conducting students, now assumes the role of director of graduate conducting. Marin Alsop’s commitment to education, the training of young conductors, and community engagement make her appointment at Peabody a wonderful opportunity to continue to build the stature of our conducting program and pave a new and exciting path towards the training of citizen-artists for the future. It was also recently announced that 2015-16 will be Teri Murai’s final year as music director after more than 25 years of dedicated service to Peabody and our students.
New Pathways to the Future
The 21st century has brought a new era for music that presents both enormous challenges and great opportunities for musicians in the roles they will inhabit in their careers. It is no longer enough to be an outstanding musician-performer. That is still essential, in fact, more so than ever. But it is not enough. Whether one plays in a major orchestra, starts a chamber group, teaches, or leads the life of a freelance musician, success increasingly demands communication and technological skills, audience development savvy, community connectivity, innate flexibility, and a willingness to create one’s own unique path and to establish a personal brand.
To accomplish the critical task of building these skills in an integral and meaningful way into the training of each and every student, I will be appointing the Peabody Curriculum Committee for the Future whose charge will be: To oversee the review and revision of Peabody’s curriculum to ensure verbal communication skills, audience development, programming, community connectivity, and career planning become integrated into the work of every Peabody student, relating it directly to their regular and essential everyday activities as musician/performers.
Music schools and conservatories have for too long relegated these skills to the periphery of the professional training experience. As the oldest conservatory in the country, Peabody was first with many initiatives throughout its history. It should lead here as well.
This year we are reimagining the role of new music at Peabody through the launch of a new ensemble, Now Hear This, a flexible chamber ensemble focused on music of living composers. This fall we’ll also complete the recording of a new CD with Naxos featuring Marin Alsop and the Peabody Symphony Orchestra performing the music of Kevin Puts. In addition, we are presenting a special performance of Michael Hersch’s monodrama, On the Threshold of Winter. And in January Peabody will host the second international New Music Gathering here in Baltimore, bringing together composers and performers dedicated to the fostering and promotion of new music. I invite you to join us for these exciting events; you can learn more at peabody.jhu.edu.
As you can see, this is shaping up to be a busy and exciting year at Peabody, as we continue to build the future of this wonderful institution. Please feel free to contact my office with any thoughts, suggestions, or questions.