May 8, 2019: Quarterly Update

I am writing today to update you on important initiatives and developments at Peabody as we approach the close of the 2018-19 academic year.


On May 22nd, the Peabody Conservatory celebrates its 137th graduation exercises.

Singer-songwriter Tori Amos, an alumna of the Peabody Preparatory, is our graduation speaker and recipient of Peabody’s highest honor, the George Peabody Medal. Ms. Amos’ career has spanned 15 albums, landed her eight Grammy award nominations, and crossed over to include penning a stage musical.

When we talk about getting prepared to pursue a career I am always reminded that classical and jazz musicians, and now dancers at Peabody, going out into the world can take a page from pop artists like Tori Amos, who have built substantive and broad careers and professional brands in an interesting and sustainable way. We look forward to the opportunity to hear from her about what she has done, and what our graduates can learn from her.

Similarly inspiring, the Excellence in Teaching Award will go to Michael Kannen, who leads Peabody’s chamber music program, and is responsible for teaching and inspiring students for two decades to love and embrace chamber music.

And of course, we’ll be enthusiastically celebrating the success of the graduating class of 2019!


FY19, the second year of Peabody’s five-year financial plan, concludes June 30, 2019. Following a year which finished ahead of expectations, in FY19 we continued our commitment to invest in new initiatives, while moving towards greater financial stability and sustainability for the future. At this time, we expect to finish FY19 with better-than-budgeted results, helping us preserve unrestricted reserves and placing us ahead of plan.

Fundraising is critical to our programmatic mission and financial results. We are tracking well against this year’s goals and expect to meet the unrestricted cash goal which directly and positively impacts the operating position for the Institute.

We are also excited about a new opportunity across the university in the form of a matching campaign to endow professorships. For Peabody, which has only five endowed chairs today, this represents a wonderful opportunity. The Institute has established a goal to endow three new professorships through this match.


Ultimately, Peabody’s success is built on being able to attract outstanding students, and we are on track to do this again for fall 2019. We expect 318 incoming students and a total of 670 students at the Peabody Conservatory this fall. We began this year’s admissions process with another increase, receiving more than 2,100 applications, up four percent from last year.

Our continued commitment and focus on diversity led to an increase of 33 percent in applications from underrepresented minority (URM) students, for a total of 300 applications this year. For the class beginning in fall 2019, 54 out of 318 incoming students – 17 percent – are URM, as compared with 37 URM from the total entering class of 278 (13 percent) last year. The total URM student cohort is expected to climb to 100 students this year, between 14 and 15 percent, up 70 percent since 2015. This will continue to be an area of focus for Peabody.

This fall we have our first class of students who are beneficiaries of Michael Bloomberg’s historic gift, allowing us for the first time to target need-based funding to students with exceptional financial need. As a result of this funding, we have been able to meet on average 82 percent of demonstrated financial need for students coming from families with incomes below $100,000, helping to increase access to a Peabody education among those who otherwise would not have been able to enroll.


We say goodbye to several retiring faculty with much gratitude for the time that they have given Peabody. These include Violaine Melancon, James Olin, and Laurie Sokoloff.

We have also added a number of new faculty in recent months, and in that process, we continue to build the expertise and outstanding reputation of our faculty as well as its diversity.  As of now, we project for fall that 22 faculty or 11 percent of total Conservatory faculty will be URM. That compares with 10 faculty or 6.5 percent in 2017.

This also was the year that Peabody rolled out our first-ever rank and promotion process for faculty. While remaining untenured, faculty had the opportunity to apply for the rank of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, or Professor. A robust process that took place over much of this past year included the review of detailed professional dossiers by a committee of internal and external reviewers who made recommendations to the dean. Seventy faculty applied for and were assigned rank, representing a true milestone for Peabody and our dedicated faculty.

Peabody Institute Advisory Board

Effective July 1, Peabody’s volunteer Advisory Board moves on with its own transition in leadership. We are truly grateful to Taylor Hanex for serving a two-year term as chair, and then agreeing to serve a third year which she completes in June. Jill McGovern, chair of our Nominating Committee, has graciously agreed to serve a one-year interim and then hand off to Dr. Nancy Grasmick, who will serve a two-year term. We are enormously grateful to our board leadership and all Advisory Board members for their commitment to Peabody.

New Initiatives

Over the course of the last several months, the Breakthrough Curriculum Working Group has been diligently reviewing recommendations and refining the Curriculum. The working group is scheduled to make further recommendations to the dean’s office. I look forward to working with the team to continue to ensure the Breakthrough Curriculum is all it can be.

As we are just finishing up recruiting our second cohort of students in the Music for New Media and Dance programs, it is worth noting how interesting and impactful these programs have already become as they take their places here at Peabody. It has truly been refreshing and expansive for the Institute to have welcomed these new areas of study.

Dialogue with our Students

Associate Dean for Enrollment and Student Life Townsend Plant and I have been meeting regularly with the dean’s advisory group comprised of representatives from Peabody student organizations, as well as holding town halls twice a semester to hear directly from students. We have also had the opportunity to meet with the Black Student Union to continue our discussion on diversity and inclusion at Peabody. I have been especially pleased to see a reinvigorated and active Peabody General Assembly, whose leadership is now meeting monthly with Peabody’s executive team as an opportunity to carry on a regular dialogue between administrative leadership and students.

Summing Up

As always, there is much going on at Peabody even as we approach the conclusion of the semester. Thank you for your interest in the Peabody Institute.