August 22, 2019: Quarterly Update

Greetings!  I hope you had a pleasant and productive summer.  I am pleased to share updates about the Peabody Institute as we launch the 2019-20 academic year. 

Financial Results

The 2019 fiscal year ending June 30 marked the close of the second year of Peabody’s five-year financial plan which supports the Institute’s strategic Breakthrough Plan.  The initial years of this financial plan have committed resources to support new programmatic initiatives, scholarships, degree programs, curriculum, and new faculty.  I am pleased to report that, as was the case with FY2018, FY2019 results are favorable to plan.  A planned operating deficit was reduced by $800,000 due to better-than-budgeted fundraising in current use operating support as well as expense savings.  Peabody has been funding these investments largely through reserves, and this improved result allows Peabody to complete FY2019 with $5.4 million in total net reserves, as compared with a budgeted projection of $4.6 million.  For FY2020, our financial plan calls for a significantly smaller operating deficit in order to meet plan objectives.  Again, the strategy has been to make necessary investments early in our plan to both drive academic mission and strategically grow revenues. 

Peabody Faculty

What makes Peabody truly remarkable, first and foremost, is our outstanding faculty.  Students come to Peabody to work with some of the best artists and pedagogues in the world.  Over the past several years we have hired an unprecedented more than 80 new faculty members, including 25 new faculty this fall. This year also represents the inaugural year for the Peabody Conservatory’s new rank and promotion system, providing another important way to recognize our faculty and benchmark important progress in their careers.  Seventy faculty members have applied for and received non-tenured rankings of Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, and Instructor.  Finally, this year you are returning, or coming for the first time, to a Peabody that is more diverse in its faculty than ever before.  Eleven percent of our faculty this fall are underrepresented minorities as compared with 6.5 percent just two years ago.  That’s nearly three times the average for faculty diversity at similar schools nationally.

Peabody Students

The students here at Peabody are among the most talented in the country and indeed the world.  This year we have a record enrollment at Peabody with 680 students, and it is the most diverse class in our history with more than 95 underrepresented minority students, which is 14 percent of our total student body, and representing a 60% increase since 2015.  This is important because the future of the performing arts will depend on a much more diverse audience than exists today, and that will only happen when we increase the diversity of the performers on our stages throughout our industry.  We should be proud that Peabody is at the forefront of an existential imperative for our field – we are committed to turning out the best and most diverse group of professional performing artists among our peers. 

Peabody Staff

We are equally fortunate to have a highly talented staff here at Peabody.  As follow up to last year’s University-wide Gallup staff survey, the Peabody Employee Engagement Workgroup was empaneled to discuss and make recommendations to strengthen our employee engagement opportunities, building on feedback received in the survey.  Co-chaired by April Tune and Christine DiMarino, the result was a highly thoughtful and substantive series of recommendations from the Workgroup designed to help Peabody continue to grow in this area.  That report has been followed up with continued conversations and plans for next steps involving directors and managers working with their own teams and the executive team on implementation of these recommendations.  I am excited about the work being done in this area, and look forward to more on this to come in the months ahead. 

New Curriculum, New Programs

Peabody is also taking the lead in committing fully to the issue of preparing young artists for the world that they will face, rather than an imaginary world of decades past.  Peabody’s Breakthrough Curriculum, launched two years ago, seeks to surround the Conservatory’s historic and robust core performance training with 21st-century skills.  But we are not doing this in a vacuum.  We have listened carefully over the last two years to our faculty and students, incorporated important input, and made significant changes to ensure this curriculum is effective.  Last January I appointed the Breakthrough Curriculum Work Group, comprised of faculty, administration, and student representation, and industry experts.  Their charge was:  To review instruction, format, content, curricular sequence and scaffolding, degree and departmental cohorts, evaluation procedures, skills assessment, and collected student/faculty/staff feedback to present a thorough review and recommendations for curricular revision and refinement to the dean

The key outcome of the group’s work was its recommendation to combine the Build and Implement courses into one unified class, and re-sequence the classes to ensure appropriate scaffolding of skills.  The new capstone course focuses on the development of realizable, innovative creative projects by undertaking research, preparing a portfolio of materials, and rehearsing a pitch presentation.  Pitches will be adjudicated by a panel of faculty and guests and will also serve as an entry in a real competition for funding and project support to implement a residency at one of Peabody’s partner institutions.  Other Breakthrough Curriculum courses continue in their current form.  In addition, Zane Forshee who leads our LAUNCHPad initiative has been appointed as coordinator for the Breakthrough Curriculum, ensuring the integration and practical application of the new curriculum with long-term career objectives. 

This fall we also welcome the second cohort of students in our new degree programs in Dance and Music for New Media.  These initiatives are bringing a new face to Peabody, an expanding vision, and an unprecedented new level of creativity by virtue of integrating these new disciplines into the life of the Conservatory.

Breakthrough Plan 2024

Finally, Peabody has enjoyed a strong trajectory of change and growth over the last five years through the implementation of the Breakthrough Plan, touching virtually every aspect of the institution including enrollment, implementation of new programs, curriculum innovation, diversity, faculty governance and recruitment, community engagement, and Peabody’s relevance and unique role as a school in one of the world’s top research institutions as manifested especially in the music and medicine footprint.   With multiple years now under our belt and with the completion of a successful five-year divisional review last spring, it is timely for us to engage in a  renewal process  to take stock of the Breakthrough Plan today, and to assess the ongoing fit of initiatives in support of the five pillars – Excellence, Interdisciplinary Experiences, Innovation, Community Connectivity, and Diversity – and to make refinements and revisions within the framework of the plan to position Peabody optimally for the next five years.  We look forward to an inclusive process that will engage and seek the input of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and volunteers in order to help shape the next incarnation of Peabody’s Breakthrough Plan. 

We are off to what we know will be a busy and productive year here at Peabody.  I look forward to updating you on the Institute’s initiatives and progress in the coming months.