April 19, 2024: Quarterly Update

I am pleased to write today with an update on important news at Peabody as we make our way towards the close of the 2023-24 academic year.

Financial Sustainability

Peabody entered the fourth quarter of FY24 with good news. Through our multi-year plan, Peabody has worked towards eliminating long-standing annual structural deficits ranging from $2 million to $3 million. We were poised to erase these deficits in FY25, but strong enrollment in the current year has accelerated that timeline, with Peabody now expected to conclude FY24 with a small surplus, on which we will build in FY25 and in years to come. This assumes Peabody can successfully meet our fundraising goal, with $6.59 million or 76% raised to date on a goal of $8.73 million.


This academic year the Conservatory has enjoyed the largest enrollment in our history – exceeding 800 students. Our enrollment progress has accelerated our planned growth – 7% above target for the current year, on the way to a projected 850 students over the next five years. In addition, applications for fall 2024 were strong, with total completed applications running 8% over last year. Of course, the important news on financial aid which we announced in January has ramifications for Peabody’s admissions process, selectivity, and yield, which combined with strong application numbers bodes well for Peabody recruiting a highly talented class for the coming year. There will be more to report on this as we move past May 1, the deadline by which undergraduate applicants commit to their choice of school.

This recent growth is part of a more than 40% increase in enrollment since 2017. One key area of growth is the Music Engineering & Technology disciplines (MET). MET enrollment has more than doubled over five years, the result of the Music for New Media program and expansion of the Computer Music program. As an outgrowth of MfNM, this fall Peabody will also matriculate its first cohort for a Master of Music in Film & Game Scoring.

Capital Plans

I’ve encouraged you to watch this space for additional news about Peabody’s coming facilities and capital improvements. After completion of two pre-studies and a trustee-approved feasibility study, we are on track to move into the next phase of planning. Our focus is on development of a third-party partnership for new housing off-campus, while beginning a design process on repurposing and renovation of our existing housing towers in order to develop new program space. In addition, an early phase of capital maintenance projects beginning this summer includes new systems in the Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall, renovated restrooms and elevators, and other smaller projects across the campus, with more details to come in the near future.

Breakthrough Curriculum

When Peabody launched its Breakthrough Curriculum in 2018, we put a stake in the ground around issues critical to training artists for a constantly evolving world. While it remains critical to develop all the traditional skills needed to compete in a highly competitive field, it’s not enough—more was needed to teach all artists skills of flexibility and adaptability, technology, audience development, community engagement, and more. And it wasn’t enough for Peabody to just say we were doing this; we had to gather and utilize real data to assess the efficacy of this kind of training.

This is where the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP)—a collection of data representing attitudes of arts alumni nationally—comes in. The skills being taught in the Breakthrough Curriculum are now being reflected back in the assessment of recent Peabody alumni (2020 to 2022) as compared with the national average for arts alumni, benchmarked in the SNAAP data. The data show that recent Peabody graduates express higher satisfaction with their education than the national average in the following areas:

  • 26% higher in Business, Financial or Entrepreneurship Skills
  • 7% higher in satisfaction with Exposure to a Broad View of Career Options
  • 8% higher in Work on a Project with or in a Role Serving the Community
  • 17% higher in Networking with Alumni
  • 7% higher in Networking with Artists, Designers, and Other Creative Professionals
  • 10% higher in Utilizing Career Services Offerings

We are committed to building on these results as we think about the continued evolution of the Breakthrough Curriculum. And we are grateful to our alumni who represent the best of Peabody in the professional world each and every day.

External Review

As I noted in my January message, every five years each of the schools of Johns Hopkins University undertakes an external review as a matter of due diligence and good academic and institutional hygiene. In preparation for this process, Peabody prepared a self-study last fall demonstrating significant growth and success across areas including, though not limited to, enrollment, new academic programs, faculty development, student services, and diversity. The external review team comprised of decanal colleagues from Oberlin Conservatory, Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, and the College of Performing Arts at The New School and Mannes School of Music, visited in March and met with a broad constituency of our campus community. While we still await a written report, the external review team’s feedback, provided to the President, Provost, and myself at the conclusion of their visit, was generally very positive and supportive of Peabody’s successes and its trajectory.  Congratulations to so many faculty and staff across our community who work every single day to make Peabody the best it can be for our students.

Peabody Research

When Johns Hopkins University announced in December 2020 that new scholarship revealed the university’s founder, Johns Hopkins, held enslaved people in his home in the mid-1800s, the Peabody Institute moved with expediency to commission independent research into the life of our founder, George Peabody, and his possible connections to slavery.

This research has been ongoing for several years, and after significant investigation, due diligence, and follow up, we are close to concluding this phase of work. We look forward to soon sharing with our community more details of what we have learned through this process, as well as next steps.

2024 Graduation

It is always amazing as we arrive at graduation time – each year seems to get shorter, and more compact. In just a few short weeks at this year’s graduation ceremonies we look forward to seeing 279 students walk across the Friedberg Hall stage to receive their diplomas. Also I was so pleased to have announced just recently that Professor Elizabeth Futral is this year’s recipient of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award. We look forward to honoring Elizabeth for her accomplishments as an outstanding teacher and artist at this year’s graduation ceremonies on May 22. In addition, in the very near future we hope to be sharing some very exciting news about the awarding of the Peabody Medal at the 2024 ceremony.  Stay tuned!

Summing Up

As always, there is much that is happening at Peabody. With just a few weeks remaining in the semester, I want to wish everyone across our community a successful conclusion to the academic year, and a safe and productive summer hiatus.