I am pleased to write to you today with my quarterly update reporting on Peabody’s current and future plans.
We are now more than halfway through fiscal year 2023, and continue largely on track for the current year—part of our multi-year financial plan focused on supporting Peabody’s strategic Breakthrough Plan 2024 while strengthening Peabody’s financial underpinning, including elimination of long-standing structural deficits. This year we have seen significant growth in net tuition thanks to larger-than-planned enrollment and lower attrition, even as we continue to invest increasing resources in scholarship support for our talented students. Fundraising, especially current use, is always a key part of a healthy financial picture. To date, we have raised a total of $4.61 million—59% towards a goal of $7.78 million. Current use funding, which most directly impacts the operating budget, is at $2.92 million—52% on a goal of $5.56 million.
As always, we are committed to staying on plan, including moving to a position of positive operating margins in the final year of our Breakthrough Plan 2024.
February is always an exhilarating month at Peabody. It is the time when we welcome a diverse group of prospective students—future professional artists—to our campus for a week of intense auditions where students get to show what they have, test their mettle, and in a very real sense interact with others who share their passion to excel in the arts at the highest level. This year we will welcome 1,100 students to campus during Audition Week, from 20 countries and 45 states. We have seen a 6% increase in undergraduate applications, which is a welcome measure of both interest and resilience following two challenging years for undergraduates everywhere due to the pandemic. This increase also helps to balance a very healthy increase in our graduate students that we realized coming into this year. There is so much to be gained in the performing arts when undergraduates and graduates work in close proximity. It provides a visceral path of achievement demonstrating how one changes as an artist over these short, critical years of development.
Indicators of quality and interest in the incoming cohort have already been manifested in a number of important areas. At our inaugural Dance Audition Weekend, applicants met with faculty and students, watched a spectacular showcase with current students, and mingled with each other and their families. We also garnered a record number of students in our Early Decision round this year, and will increase the number of new students in the second year of our Low Residency Master of Music in Composition. So, the early indicators are strong, and we are optimistic about the shape of our next class.
One of the important pieces of Peabody’s Breakthrough Plan 2024, launched in 2019, was the recognition that we were long overdue for reframing Peabody’s mission statement, and identifying core values. Renowned business strategists and authors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras identify in their book Built to Last the profound importance of what they call Core Ideology to institutions. Collins and Porras define two pieces to this “ideology”—Core Purpose, or what we call Mission, is an organization’s “fundamental reason for being,” while Core Values represent an organization’s “essential and enduring tenets.”
We began reconsideration of our mission in 2019 by engaging in an institute-wide dialogue that included faculty, staff, students, and volunteers, eventually honing all that work over several years (with a few pandemic-related detours), all resulting today in a revitalized mission which we believe truly represents the 21st-century Peabody, and a set of Core Values that speak to the “DNA” of who we are as an institution. I believe this work is so important, and worth noting in full, here, as part of our launch of this new mission and values statement on Peabody’s Founders Day:
I am especially grateful to Tiffany Lundquist who led this important process with the input and wisdom of so many across our community. We are excited to live by these statements, and keep them as guideposts on our ongoing institutional journey.
If you thought all the Grammy honors this year belonged to Beyoncé, Adele, or Harry Styles, you would be wrong. In fact, Peabody was well represented this month at the 2023 Grammy Awards. Peabody conducting alum Michael Repper (DMA ’22) took home the Best Orchestral Performance award for his recording of works by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery and Valerie Coleman with the New York Youth Symphony, beating out an impressive competition that included Gustavo Dudamel and John Williams, among others. Peabody Professor of Composition and Pulitzer-Prize winner Kevin Puts won Best Contemporary Classical Composition for his composition, Contact, performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra, also beating out some high-level competition including renowned composer Sofia Gubaidulina. In addition, alumni Cierra Byrd, Lawrence Manchester, Ian Rosenbaum, and Karl Wingate performed on or had a role in the production of other winning projects recognized in the 2023 Grammys.
We congratulate and are very proud of Kevin, Michael, and all of our alumni on their achievements.
While we have gone quiet on Peabody’s JHU trustee-approved feasibility study, that work is ongoing in earnest as we continue to explore different options to address needed improvements in housing and dining including the possibility of working with third-party developers, as well as the need for expanded and upgraded programmatic spaces across the campus. We are slated to complete this final study this spring, paving the way for developing design and architectural details for this very critical project. I look forward to updating our community on the results of this work before the conclusion of the spring semester.
As many of you are aware, Johns Hopkins University will take a major step forward with the opening next fall of the 555 Pennsylvania Avenue building—the new home of the School of Advanced International Studies, host to a range of university-wide programs and initiatives, and a major beachhead for the University in Washington. Ensuring the vibrancy of this building both through its internal users and its partnerships with other DC-based institutions, government and otherwise, as well as the broader community, is critical to the success of the building.
Peabody is excited to play a role in the activation of this space through a regular and ongoing series of performances to take place at 555 in the newly renovated theater, reimagined with Peabody very much in mind. Our plans include weekly performances by students, faculty, alumni and guests, as well as convening national conversations around the arts. We see this as a wonderful opportunity to partner with the University on the activation of this exciting space, while at the same time providing Peabody with an expanded presence in Washington. There will be much more to come on this, but I hope members of our community will start to ponder the great opportunity that this affords Peabody as we plan to curate a strong Peabody presence in the nation’s capital.
As always, things are busy at Peabody with many important initiatives underway, and more to come. I look forward to further updates later this spring.