March 23, 2016: Quarterly Update

Thank you for your continued interest in the Peabody Institute, and for coming to this space to learn more about our initiatives.  There are a number of important updates.

Tasked with the Future

One of the most important initiatives underway currently is the work ongoing with the Peabody Curriculum for the Future Task Force and the Reimagining Ensembles at Peabody Task Force.  We have charged these groups comprised of faculty, administration, students, and advisory board members with the critical task of helping to shape future training for our students at Peabody.  To help with their work, we recently conducted a survey of our alumni to better understand their experience as it pertains to specific skillsets around life in the professional music world today, skills that go beyond traditional conservatory training alone, to skills around communication, audience development, and community connectivity.  More than 250 alumni responded to the survey.  The results were telling and compelling.  We learned that these skills were generally of great importance in 80-95% and more of the responses in the careers of our alumni, and while we are doing an impressive job of preparing our students in their musical development, there is sizable gap, between 30% and 55%, in what is required of alumni in the professional world and the consistency in traditional training around 21st century skills.  This is the very reason that Peabody is committing itself to a new approach of tending to these skills, not at the periphery of study but actively integrated into the training of every Peabody student.

An Anniversary and an Acoustical Makeover

On October 25, 2016, Friedberg Hall, Baltimore’s first concert hall, will be 150 years old.  Anyone who has sat in this wonderful space knows the ambience of its “old-world” and elegant feel.  And what a history of performances!  Because its history is so important, and it is indeed at the very center of what Peabody is about – performance – we are seizing this moment in its history to make it even better.  To accomplish this objective, we have engaged one of the most prominent acousticians in the world, Lawrence Kirkegaard of Kirkegaard Associates, responsible for renovations in Orchestra Hall, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; and many other world-renowned concert halls, to advise and design a remedy for some of Friedberg’s acoustical challenges, especially as they pertain to on-stage hearing by musicians, as well as further improving the audience experience.  The first phase of this $1.6 million project will take place this summer, and will entail expansion of the stage and acoustical treatment of the walls above the stage.  There are other things that will happen later in the project but as an educational institution, our first priority is to make sure we can provide our students with the best opportunities for learning and achieving musical perfection.  This first phase is possible thanks to a very generous gift of $500,000 from the France-Merrick Foundation.

Community Connectivity

While much of the activity and action at Peabody is centered around the Mt. Vernon campus and its wonderful venues such as Friedberg Hall, increasingly our commitment extends to connecting to communities in new and different ways, to ensuring our students are part of that engagement and are learning a set of skills around making these community connections.  One initiative representative of this growing area of focus – which directly relates to the work of the Curriculum Task Force discussed above – is an exciting partnership that will begin next fall with Young Audiences of Maryland.  Details will be forthcoming but suffice it to say that Peabody students and Preparatory faculty will be prominent on the Young Audience roster next year, and in doing so will be bringing music to many schools across the region.  This will be one of several exciting new partnership-initiatives designed to connect Peabody in a deeper way with communities, and especially children, while at the same time providing our students with invaluable experience in what it means to be an artist in communities today.

Building on a World-Renowned Faculty – Midori

Peabody’s greatest strength is built on its outstanding faculty as well as a burgeoning group of faculty/artists that we invite to campus to work with our students.  With this commitment to Excellence as one of Peabody’s Four Pillars, we were thrilled to recently announce that renowned violinist Midori has been appointed Distinguished Visiting Artist here at Peabody for the 2016-17 Academic Year. Recognized worldwide as an extraordinary performer, a gifted educator, and an innovative community engagement activist, Midori will visit campus four times during the academic year to deliver master classes at both the Conservatory and the Preparatory and deliver interdisciplinary presentations to other Johns Hopkins academic divisions.

By any measure one of the true “stars” of classical music, Midori’s exceptional commitment to education and community engagement has been recognized by no less than the United Nations and the World Economic Forum.  I can’t think of an artist more accomplished, or better suited, to serve in this role and share with our campus community the important lessons of building a multi-faceted, holistic musical career, or who more clearly demonstrates what it means to be a citizen-artist in the 21st Century.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, important developments are continuing here at Peabody.  For a more detailed account of the progress we are making towards our Four Pillars, please review the latest update of the Breakthrough Plan. There will be more to report as we wrap up the 2015-16 academic year and prepare for another academic year, new students, new initiatives, and ever greater opportunities.

Thank you for your continued interest in the Peabody Institute.


Fred Bronstein