August 29, 2018: Convocation Address

Good afternoon.  It is great to see you all here.  I want to begin by welcoming everyone officially to Peabody’s 2018-19 academic year!  How’s it going so far?!

My first order of business today is to thank our performers and student speakers for their important contributions.  Well done!

I also want to invite all of you to join us for lunch in the courtyard immediately following Convocation.  By the way, that’s a chance to enjoy our new food service – Bon Appetite.  In addition to our new vendor, we have an improved system that will allow our students to eat at Homewood, and similarly for students coming here from Homewood, in a much more seamless way.  Our Student Affairs and Financial folks worked really hard to make this possible.  I’m grateful to them.

One other piece of housekeeping if I might: before we adjourn, we’ll continue a tradition at Convocation where we thank our more than 1,100 people who donate to Peabody each year.  For those of you who are returning students, faculty and staff, you will remember that we take this great photo that goes on a postcard to our donors.  So following my brief remarks and Sean Jones and Alex Brown’s performance, Leslie Procter will provide us instructions as we take a few moments to thank all our donors in this way.  Please join us for that.

Now, the start of every year is always special, full of excitement and possibility.  This year especially so as it is another year of real ‘firsts” at Peabody.

First of all, we welcome our inaugural dance class of 15 students from around the world to Peabody’s new BFA in dance under the leadership of danah bella.  It’s a great class, and we’re thrilled to have you.  And I know that you will bring a completely unique energy to Peabody, as well as the possibility for extraordinary artistic collaboration with musicians here at Peabody.

Similarly, we welcome the inaugural class for New Media under the leadership of Thomas Dolby – a class of 14 students who will be working at the cutting edge of music and technology, composing and engineering scores for video games, augmented and virtual reality, and a whole host of other things I’m sure I can’t even begin to understand.  This new program builds on two of Peabody’s core strengths: composition and recording arts.

More generally, as I noted in my recent newsletter, many of you are the result of a highly successful admissions and recruitment process.  We have our largest incoming class in recent years, coming from 29 states and 12 countries, coming from our largest applicant pool in history, which was up 18 percent over 2017.   You competed hard to get here!  And the overall talent level is among the highest in recent years as measured by faculty audition ratings, and I am very happy to say, our most diverse cohort of students in our history.

This year also marks the launch and rebirth of a reinvigorated and expanded jazz program at Peabody under the leadership of Sean Jones and a host of outstanding faculty members.  I am just so excited to see the direction and trajectory of this program.  And in just a few minutes, you’ll get to hear some of the fantastic work that Sean already has underway.

This is also the first full year of operating the Johns Hopkins Rehabilitative Network Clinic for Performing Artists at Peabody.  Over the last few years, with the launch of the Center for Music and Medicine, and Peabody’s focus on wellness and peak performance training, we are thrilled to be able to have right in our midst a facility that can help our students stay healthy from a performance perspective.  What an asset this is, and I hope you’ll take advantage of it.

We also continue this year the rollout of Peabody’s Breakthrough Curriculum with the full fledge launch of the second year Build and third year Implement sequences.  We’ve taken very valuable feedback from last year, and continue to refine this important new part of Peabody’s training.

What attracted you here was Peabody’s outstanding faculty.  This year we welcome more than thirty new faculty members to join our longstanding and outstanding cohort of Peabody faculty.  And as you hopefully are aware, last year Diversity became one of Peabody’s five strategic pillars.  And as a result, as was the case with students, this year we have our most diverse faculty ever.

The key to future audiences is diversity.  And Peabody is committed to playing a major role in diversifying a world – classical music – that has not enjoyed the kind of diversity essential to the future health and vibrancy of our field.  We’re proud to be helping to lead this effort.

So, I’ve noted a number of innovations that are important steps forward for Peabody.  However, Peabody’s innovation does not in any way change the fact that the core experience of a Peabody education remains musical and performing excellence.  But now we are surrounding and supporting all the elements of a traditionally great Peabody education with tools that will make and keep you flexible, productive, relevant, and better prepared for the ever changing world that ultimately awaits you when you leave here.

Again, we are excited to have our new classes, to welcome returning students, and to simply use this opportunity to say good luck, have a great year, and make every minute count!

Remember, after the performance, pictures here in the hall, and lunch in the courtyard!  Thank you very much!