December 6, 2017: Quarterly Update

More than two years ago, Peabody launched its Breakthrough Plan and this past year, translated that vision into a five-year “roadmap” encompassing both an academic vision and a detailed financial framework and business plan to support the academic vision.  Details in the plan include right-sizing our core conservatory cohort; new admissions, enrollment management, and recruitment strategies and capabilities; the launch of new programs in New Media and Dance, and the Breakthrough Curriculum with its broad implications for Peabody’s presence in Baltimore communities; building an online teaching capability as well as expanded capacity in fundraising; the continued planning for generational change in faculty and the onboarding of new faculty; and critical new interdisciplinary initiatives around music and medicine.

As we approach the half-way mark in this first year of this five-year roadmap, we are watching and carefully assessing and benchmarking progress against the ambitious goals laid out in our plan.  I am pleased to have the opportunity to provide an update on our progress to date.

FY18 Update

A robust system for projecting quarterly updates for financial reporting purposes, and to better understand and be able to react as necessary, is especially important as we execute our five-year financial plan.  As of the end of the first quarter of the fiscal year, we are running slightly favorable to our projected budget, both in modified cash after capital (operating) and in GAAP (including depreciation).  As it is relatively early in the fiscal year, we are continuing to carefully monitor our actuals against budget.  Of course, we should remember that this is in the context of budgeted, planned deficits over several years necessary to make investments important both to the academic mission and to growing revenues, in order to ensure a healthy and sustainable financial model for the Institute in the future.


The projection of 15 additional students in the current academic year is the primary driver in a modestly improved financial outlook for the current fiscal year.  Improved enrollment management has been a focus with extensive use of data and analysis, along with strengthened collaboration and engagement with faculty in recruitment.  Now with our sights set squarely on enrollment for the 2018-19 academic year, as of the December 1st application deadline, we have 1917 submitted applications vs. 1639 last year at this time, a 17 percent increase, inclusive of new programs in New Media and Dance, both of which have garnered impressive cohorts of applicants.  Submitted applications are up 11 percent even when excluding new programs.  In addition to the positive changes in Admissions and the excellent work of our faculty, a rebranded website and marketing vision for Peabody has been launched.  Excitement being generated by the Breakthrough Curriculum is also contributing.


Fundraising is critical to every year of this plan.  In order to build capacity to expand our fundraising efforts in the coming years, we have undertaken a number of initiatives that include implementing consultant recommendations made last year to focus on building the pipeline of donors.  This has required some rethinking of staff roles and reorganization to ensure appropriate allocation of resources directly to front line fundraising while supporting back office needs.  The effort also entails increasing leadership involvement in fundraising, including focusing our advisory board on fundraising priorities.  In this initial year, we have a substantive budgeted increase in our cash fundraising goal, which is approximately $5.7M in FY18 vs. $4M in FY17, a 43 percent increase.  At this point in the fiscal year, we have raised $2.58M on the goal of $5.7M, or 45 percent of goal to date.

New Initiatives Under Way

In September we launched the Breakthrough Curriculum focused on enhancing the skillset of every student at Peabody around what it means to be a musician and citizen artist in the 21st century.  The phase-in of this curriculum includes the Freshman “Explore” course, which uses Baltimore as a framework for defining the role of musicians in communities, and pilot initiatives for “Build” and “Implement” segments of the curriculum.  In addition, the new ensembles program that emphasizes a broad range of eclectic ensemble experiences for students is under way.  In this new program students have opportunities to play across a range of experiences, from orchestra to chamber orchestra to studio orchestra and others, in a series of modular, intensified rehearsal blocks.  As with all initiatives, we are regularly evaluating the efficacy of these new activities and continuing to refine as we go.  It’s important to note that there have already been a number of impressive performances under the new calendar, ranging from a beautifully accomplished Mahler 1 by Marin Alsop and the PSO, to new Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Artistic Director of Ensembles Joseph Young’s recent PCO concert and the debut of the Peabody Studio Orchestra.

Another exciting initiative important to note is the Center for Music and Medicine, a collaboration between Peabody and Johns Hopkins Medicine.  As this is our 40th anniversary year as a division of Hopkins, it seems especially fitting that the potential of this new collaboration comes to the fore at this time.  Two early manifestations of this new initiative include Peabody’s first week-long focus on wellness as part of student orientation this past September, and the planned opening of a clinic on the Peabody campus for the treatment of performance-related injuries, truly a first for any conservatory.

The collaboration with Hopkins Medicine is also leading us into the online teaching space, with the launch in January of Playing Well – Anatomy and Movement, a 14-week, 2-credit course for musicians. This exciting pilot effort is envisioned to be the first course in a four course Playing Well certificate series.

Simultaneously, the new faculty governance initiative now in its first year is already proving to be an effective and meaningful way to better leverage the expertise and leadership of our faculty, including an active Chair’s Committee and Dean’s Advisory Committee.  I am personally impressed by, and grateful for, the faculty’s seriousness of purpose and commitment to the new system, which is already fostering important and productive dialogue, especially vital with the implementation of so many new programs.

Wrapping Up

The Breakthrough Curriculum, a deeply engaged faculty, and a heightened focus on managing playing health all offer Peabody a competitive advantage that is arguably already showing itself in ways that include the quality of new faculty being attracted to Peabody, the increased number of applications by potential students, and the place that Peabody is increasingly occupying in conversations across our peer institutions.

As we approach the much-needed and well-deserved break, I am so excited by and grateful for the enormous commitment of our faculty and staff to providing the kind of high level and innovative professional training that our students require and deserve.  I am continually amazed at the passion that our people have for this institution, and am inspired by that passion each and every day.

I wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday season, and wonderful new year!