August 31, 2022: Convocation Address

Good afternoon, let me begin by welcoming all of you, faculty, staff, and students, to the start of the 2022-23 Academic Year. It’s always so great to see everyone at the beginning of a new year – it is a bit quiet around here in July.

I do want to offer a special welcome to those of you new to Peabody: students, faculty, and staff. I think you’ll find Peabody to be a wonderful community and we’re glad you’re now part of it.

I also want to thank our performers and student speaker for today for helping us kick off this year – beautifully done, all.

And a bit of housekeeping – I want to invite everyone to join us for lunch on the Plaza immediately following Convocation. That used to be a tradition before COVID, so we’re just so glad to be able to do that again, and have the chance to visit with each other.

Now, let me begin by telling you a little bit about who’s here on campus this year – it’s pretty interesting. First, there are more students this year than ever before– more than 760 of you, the largest number in our history, and by the way, surpassing the projected goal for new incoming students by 9 percent. Forty-two percent of you are international students and you represent more than 39 countries including China, Korea, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and so many others. Our domestic students hail from 44 of the 50 states in the U.S. this year. And our growing diversity is reflected in the nearly 18 percent of students who come from historically underrepresented communities.

Of course, the number and diversity of students just tell part of the story. You are also a very talented group according to faculty audition ratings.

So, as you can see, this makes for a very diverse, cosmopolitan, and talented community here at Peabody. And I am looking forward to seeing that shine through in the art that you will create and perform this year.

Now, I’ve been around this place for a while. And I will tell you that one of the most extraordinary things about Peabody is the juxtaposition of the old with the new – deep tradition side by side with innovation. The past melding with the future. Think about it. The studying and perfecting of a Beethoven String Quartet alongside the creation of computer music, or the cutting-edge, technology-based work associated with Music for New Media. The traditional ear-training or theory class right next to Breakthrough Curriculum classes fostering 21st century skills. Or studying and creating as part of a Hip-Hop ensemble, right alongside a performance of a Mahler symphony. Peabody today is as artistically diverse and varied as are its students.

And maybe most important, the range of what you’ll want to experience here is increasingly as diverse as the professional world you are likely to encounter when you leave Peabody.

So, if I have any advice for you, it’s soak it all in! Leave nothing on the table. Sometimes you think you know exactly what you want to do, and what you’re going to be doing in life. But it rarely works out the way you plan – life and careers are full of surprises. So, practice your craft – excel in your discipline, that’s going to be a key part of the story. And experience as much as you can. If you’re a performer, work with a composer; if you’re a composer, work with a dancer; learn how to create and pitch a compelling idea; figure out what community engagement means to you; delve into the connection between the performing arts and health; explore the dynamics of arts institutions today. Start to understand at a deeper level the field you are going into, and get ready to be part of the evolution, the future of the performing arts.

You have a unique opportunity at the oldest and one of the most forward-looking conservatories in the world – and as a student of Johns Hopkins University — to do all this which will make you a better, more connected, and more viable artist.

Finally, stay connected with the love for what you do. That’s why you’re here. Sometimes it’s hard to do that. The pressure, the competition, the desire to succeed can sometimes work against that inherent passion. Stay connected with your passion, and try to enjoy, or at least, appreciate and learn something every day.

Have a great year, and I’ll see you out on the Plaza.