May 10, 2017: Quarterly Update

Welcome to this space, and my quarterly dean’s update from the Peabody Institute.  As we reach the end of the 2016-17 academic year, there is much happening at Peabody which I hope you will find of interest.

Breakthrough Plan 5-Year Model

The Breakthrough Plan began as a series of strategic objectives laid out two and a half years ago, built around the four pillars of Excellence, Interdisciplinary Experiences, Innovation, and Community Connection.  Since that time, objectives have been built out through several faculty task force processes, institute-wide conversations, alumni input, and the work of the institute’s executive administrative team.

Over the last eight months, we have been translating the Breakthrough Plan into a detailed academic and business model encompassing all aspects of Peabody’s programmatic and financial plans, creating a true roadmap going forward.  Critical components include growth of existing high-potential programs in the Conservatory; calibrating enrollments appropriate to the reimagined ensembles program; a strategic tuition and credit consumption plan, supported by clear financial aid targets; implementation of the Breakthrough Curriculum across the entire Conservatory; development of high potential programs like Dance and Music for New Media; a carefully constructed ramping up of online activities; an enhanced summer program; fine tuning our admissions and recruitment processes including a new branding initiative that supports multi-year enrollment objectives; ambitious philanthropic plans; and a revamping of faculty governance.

For decades, Peabody has operated with structural deficits that have been managed through special funding initiatives.  This plan is designed to continue to strengthen our financial underpinning over the course of the plan.  All elements of the academic programs are reflected in financial planning that supports academic excellence objectives and works towards eliminating structural deficits and builds sustainability in the years ahead.

2017-18 Admissions

At this point, we are able to point to a very successful audition and selection process for the 2017-18 academic year.  The total number of auditions for next year is 1565 compared with 1526 in 2016, representing a 3% increase, bringing the total increase over a two-year period to five percent.  As of this time, we have an entering class of 271 new students – 88 new undergraduates and 183 new graduate students.  Yield for the incoming class is projected to be 32 to 33 percent, with total enrollment in FY2018 projected to be 559 full-time students.  Our class comes from 30 states and 14 foreign countries.  Forty percent of our incoming class is international with China, Korea, and Taiwan continuing as our top countries of origin outside of the United States.

We continue to make greater investments in scholarship in order to enroll top students.  The discount rate for the entering class is projected to total 41% up from 35% in 2016, resulting in enhanced yield and increased quality in a number of areas across the class as measured by faculty audition ratings.

Welcoming New Faculty

Our faculty form the true core of the experience for our students here at Peabody.  Over the last several months we have announced an unprecedented series of new faculty appointments.  These include three renowned singers who will join Peabody’s faculty:  Elizabeth Futral, Tony Arnold, and William Burden.  We also will welcome Alexander Fiterstein, clarinet, who will chair our Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion and Harp Department, which also welcomes new faculty members BSO member Seth Horner, tuba, and National Symphony principal oboe Nicholas Stovall.  We are thrilled to add to our renowned composition program with the appointments of Felipe Lara and Du Yun, who very recently won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, adding a second Pulitzer winner to our very distinguished composition faculty.  And speaking of composition, we will be building on two core strengths of Peabody – the composition area and the Recording Arts program – with the launch of our Music for New Media degree program, to be directed by the technical innovator Thomas Dolby.  Most recently, we announced the appointment of Joseph Young, assistant conductor at the Atlanta Symphony, as Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Artistic Director of Peabody Ensembles, who will oversee our reimagined ensembles program.  Finally, we look forward to Dr. Anicia Timberlake and Dr. David Gutkin joining our musicology area.

We are excited about these appointments, and know that they will play a key role in Peabody’s excelling for years to come.

Faculty Governance

In February 2013, a final report of the External Review for the Peabody Institute was delivered to University Leadership.  Among a number of areas noted for consideration, the issue of “Governance and Leadership” was highlighted as an important area in need of rethinking.  After addressing other critical parts relating to institute’s administrative structure over the last two years, first with the consolidation of the Director of the Institute and Dean of the Conservatory into one position, comprising the first Dean of the Institute; and following that, the restructuring of the administrative leadership team under this new model, as well as revamping the faculty contract system and initiating a long needed evaluation system (also noted in the External Review), attention was turned to the review and reform of the faculty assembly and committee system that had been in place for more than forty years.  The goal was to ensure future faculty engagement and involvement in a way that would be substantive, meaningful, transparent, and accountable.

To accomplish this, eighteen months ago we convened the Governance Task Force comprised of faculty and administration.  The task force identified a set of changes that included a new Dean’s Advisory Committee representing our faculty, an enhanced Chair’s role in academic leadership at Peabody, a Promotion and Evaluation Committee to help develop and oversee a system of multi-year contracts and non-tenured promotion, academic committees that include a Curriculum and Assessment Committee and Doctoral Committee, all funneling to the Academic Council which acts as an advisory trust to the dean of the institute.

This process and the work that followed from it culminated in late April in a vote of endorsement by the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory, with 96% of those voting to endorse the new bylaws.  This is testament to the foresight of our faculty, and a recognition that with all the changes and forging ahead in new directions at Peabody, it was important to have a faculty governance system in sync with that direction, and a functioning, flexible apparatus to meet our future needs as an institution

Peabody Diversity Pathway Task Force

Even as our task forces on the curriculum, ensembles, and faculty governance wind down after many months of very productive and fruitful work, the Peabody Diversity Pathway Task Force is ramping up its agenda.  Three sub-committees of the task force, including Pipeline to Student Recruitment, Curriculum & Programming, and Climate/Inclusion & Cultural Competency, all co-chaired by trios of administrative, faculty, and student leadership, have been meeting and developing plans in these key areas.  On a parallel track, we have begun the process to design and implement an updated climate survey in order to set benchmarks against which we can measure future progress.  In addition, all faculty searches now being conducted follow protocols laid out in our Faculty Diversity Plan implemented last year, while a scheduled, one-day faculty kick-off to the next academic year will have as its focus, diversity and inclusion.  In order to keep everyone in the loop and up to speed on these initiatives, we have just gone live with a diversity page on the Peabody website which you can find here:

I cannot stress enough how important this is for Peabody.  When we consider historic challenges of this field and the continued challenges that our society faces around inclusion, it is essential that Peabody as an institution fosters an environment that grows a diverse and inclusive group of artists.

Other Highlights to Note

The buzz of activity surrounding Peabody can be seen on any given day during the academic year.  But sometimes that buzz takes on a significantly heightened intensity as, for example, when over just a two-day period this past April, we had master classes given by Midori, Frederica von Stade, the Juilliard Quartet, and Ensemble Klang (whose weeklong residency also culminated in a performance featuring works of our composition faculty).  And only a week before this line-up, we had the remarkable Peter Sellars for a fabulous Dean’s Symposium.  This is, by any measure or standard, an extraordinary line-up of visiting artists in such a concentrated period of time.  And speaking of extraordinary, we also welcome Hilary Hahn, another very distinguished artist and a Preparatory alum, as our graduation speaker for 2017.

Summing Up

It has been a fast paced and remarkable year for Peabody.  A year of new initiatives, making plans, and truly paving the way for what it means to be a 21st century musician.  This all takes on even more energy as we launch the Breakthrough Curriculum with our new class in September, and continue to forge new directions and provide training for our students in a way that plants the critical and traditional elements of training top flight musicians, within a context of change, evolution, curiosity, and community.