February 23, 2017: Quarterly Update

Peabody People Making News

I begin my quarterly update in this space by recapping some very exciting recent news regarding Peabody faculty and alumni.  Here at Peabody our faculty makes us proud each and every day.  We felt this even more keenly when Michael Hersch, Chair of the Composition Department, was recently awarded the President’s Frontier Award.  Michael Hersch’s dedication to his craft, his students, and his seriousness of purpose as a unique artistic voice today is an inspiration and a wonderful example of the role that Peabody plays at Johns Hopkins University.  This recognition for him is a true affirmation of the unique contribution of the arts to our larger community.  We extend our warm and enthusiastic congratulations to Michael.  You can read more about this award by going to the Hub.

Speaking of awards, three Peabody alumni walked away with 2017 Grammy Awards.  Zuill Bailey (BM ’94, Cello) won for Best Instrumental Solo for his performance of Michael Daugherty’s Tales of Hemingway recorded with the Nashville Symphony.  Zuill Bailey is also a great example of a citizen-artist, stewarding community festivals around the United States.  Peabody is now partnering with two of those festivals in El Paso, Texas, and Mesa, Arizona, to provide our students with direct community residency experiences through the Young Artists Development Series launched in 2015-16.  Meanwhile, The O’Connor Band including alumna Maggie O’Connor (BM ’13, MM ’14, Violin), her husband Mark and other family members took away Best Bluegrass Album for 2017.  Finally, alumnus Joel Watts (BM ’14, Horn; BM ’15, Recording Arts; MM ’15, Audio Sciences) was an assistant engineer on the recording and engineering team for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance, under the direction of Andris Nelsons.  Clearly Peabody was very well represented in the 2017 Grammy Awards!

Recent Visits to Campus

Two recent events on the Peabody campus demonstrate our commitment to make Peabody a convener of interesting and innovative conversations about music.  Distinguished Visiting Artist Midori had her third visit in a year-long residency which included a master class as well as a fascinating panel discussion with renowned author and mood-disorders expert Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Dr. Karen Swartz, Clinical Director of the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center and Director of the Adolescent Depression Awareness Program.  The program titled “The most zealous of artists, the most terrible melancholy”:  Musicians & Mood Disorders offered a fascinating glimpse into the complex relationship between creativity and mental illness.  In the same week we welcomed Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker, MacArthur Foundation Award recipient, and author of the acclaimed bestseller The Rest Is Noise, for a wide-ranging and insightful conversation about classical music and contemporary culture.  You can watch them online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBnV27AmDgU&feature=youtu.be (Alex Ross) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eubYhHjDG3w (Jamison/Midori).

The Breakthrough Curriculum Prepares to Launch

This fall the Peabody Curriculum for the Future and Reimagining Ensembles at Peabody task forces completed their charge to align our training going forward with the reality and profound changes that we see in the music world today.  The Peabody Institute Breakthrough Curriculum in Music Leadership infuses our grand historical tradition with new perspectives to create a model at the forefront of arts training in the United States.

Beginning in fall 2017, Peabody students’ training will encompass the areas of:  Excellence in craft, doing what Peabody has always excelled at, positioning our students to compete for high-level opportunities as a soloists, orchestra members, chamber musicians, conductors, composers, educators, recording engineers, critics and scholars;  Musical flexibility, or the ability to apply appropriate stylistic attributes across a wide range of performing contexts, musical styles, and ensemble configurations found in the current landscape of the professional world;  Leadership as a citizen artist, focused on building creative collaborations with diverse stakeholders both within and beyond the performing arts, actively cultivating existing and new audiences, responding to the needs of communities, and bringing value to the vitality and economy of the artistic landscape; and Communication, marketing, and practical skills to assist and help our students propel their career in any direction immediately upon graduation.

The program is designed to roll-out over the course of a four-year undergraduate experience, with a condensed version planned at the graduate level as follows:

  • EXPLORE: Designed as a Freshman level experience, students begin to develop entrepreneurial and citizen artist habits of mind, skills of collaboration and communication, and awareness of context in art-making. The course introduces students to citizen artistry in action through visiting guest artists/presenters and by gaining knowledge about the arts community in Baltimore.
  • BUILD: Delivered in a hybrid online/face-to-face format, this course builds knowledge and skills in community engagement and project development through readings, case studies, discussion, observation, and practical experience in community performances in the city of Baltimore.
  • IMPLEMENT: A project-based course undertaken in small cohorts in which students practice essential skills of programming, audience development, marketing, collaboration, and citizen artist skills through a mentored experience within the community.
  • LAUNCH: Elective leadership and fellowship opportunities for students to delve into stipended longer-term, deeper partnerships to further advance their skills in community engagement.

Key to this, and setting it apart from other major professional music programs, The Breakthrough Curriculum is fully integrated into and builds on the historical excellence of Peabody’s performance training, ensuring that each and every student graduates prepared for a world that is constantly changing and evolving, and one where musicians increasingly must play a proactive role in developing future consumers of their art.

Peabody Diversity Pathway Task Force Update

As follow up to the fall retreat of the Peabody Diversity Pathway Task Force, the group will be moving forward with work focused around sub-committees in three areas:  Pipeline and Student Recruitment; Curriculum & Programming; and Climate/Inclusion & Cultural Competency.  Each group is being co-chaired by a member of the administration, a faculty member, and a student.  The subcommittees will be seeking to engage members of the Peabody community as we move forward with this work.  I am very grateful to members of these subcommittees who are serving to advance Peabody in the important area of diversity and inclusion.

Final Thoughts:  The world in which we live

In his 2007 book, The Rest is Noise – Listening to the Twentieth Century, our recent Dean’s Symposium guest Alex Ross, MacArthur Award-winning writer and chief music critic for The New Yorker, writes eloquently about the influence of composer refugees who flocked to the United States in the wake of World War II’s carnage of fascism.  He notes that “Many leading composers of the early twentieth century – Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Rachmaninov, Weill, Milhaud, Hindemith, Krenek, and Eisler, among others – settled in the United States.”  These are just a few of the names.  Numerous world renowned performers of the likes of Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubinstein, and Artur Schnabel did the same.  When you consider the collective impact and legacy of these figures, and then consider what might have happened had they not come here, what we might have lost, it is staggering.  Of course this can just as easily be said of writers, scientists, physicians, and more.

The arts cross international lines and boundaries by definition.  We depend on and benefit from cross-pollination and ensuring a fertile and rich landscape of creativity.  As we debate the merits of immigration, we do well to remember that music and art, to say nothing of many other disciplines, require and benefit from, indeed soar higher by integrating the views and talents of others from around the world.  Through music we have the advantage and privilege of speaking an international language.  Now more than ever, we must celebrate and rededicate ourselves to the importance of diversity and inclusion through our role as artists and scholars.

I look forward to continuing to keep you updated about progress and developments at Peabody as we forge ahead.