November 13, 2019: Quarterly Update

It is hard to believe that we are now nearly halfway through the 2019-20 academic year. I am pleased to write with this quarterly update. 

Financial Update

Our financial plan, put in place nearly three years ago, was designed to support the Peabody Institute’s Breakthrough Plan which has invested in major initiatives including new programs in New Media and Dance, the innovative Breakthrough Curriculum, relaunch and expansion of our Jazz program, significantly increased scholarship aid, and of course continuing to strengthen all core programs while at the same time building a sustainable and stronger financial base. The first two years of this financial plan were overall favorable to budget by $2 million, which in FY18 and FY19 helped reduce planned deficits undertaken as programmatic investments. The current 2020 fiscal year projects a smaller deficit and, while still relatively early, we are on target to meet that projection. Our plan over the next two years continues to move Peabody to an increasingly positive financial position as various initiatives bear fruit.    

Faculty Highlights

Peabody’s outstanding, world-renowned faculty are known for their teaching prowess. At the same time, our faculty are doing enormously exciting things outside of academia. While there are simply too many to mention here, I do want to highlight several exciting projects. Professor and Pulitzer-prize winning composer Kevin Puts is on sabbatical this year to finish a commission by the Metropolitan Opera which will star Renée Fleming. Also at the Met Opera, Denyce Graves performed in the 2019-20 opening production of Porgy and Bess. Sean Jones, the Richard and Elizabeth Case Chair of Peabody’s Jazz department, has co-founded the Baltimore Jazz Collective – a consortium designed to create a dynamic cultural platform for regional artists of varied backgrounds, genres, and idioms to generate more opportunities to perform and create new works together. This project will be generously funded by the office of Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels. Faculty bassoonist Brad Balliett, who teaches in Peabody’s Breakthrough Curriculum, is working with Musicambia at Sing Sing Prison to teach songwriting to inmates. And it is exciting to note that this summer Peabody Professor and renowned guitarist Manuel Barrueco was inducted into the Guitar Foundation of America’s Hall of Fame. 

Leveraging Staff Talent

We have an outstanding staff at Peabody and we continue to move forward with initiatives designed to drive further success. An important recent step was the establishment of the Management Team, comprised of directors and managers across the Institute, who are working to advance strategic objectives and improve and expand our operational and process capacity. The group’s inaugural chair is Andrew Kipe, Director of Ensemble Operations. Under Andrew’s capable leadership, the group is taking on a series of new initiatives, including working with the Employee Engagement Work Group to implement recommendations made to executive leadership in June. The Management Team represents the breadth and depth of talent and skills across all of our staff, and I am excited about the work that they will do on behalf of Peabody. 

Diversity and Inclusion

This year Peabody has continued its intense focus on diversity and inclusion. As I have noted previously, we are driven by a recognition that as audiences continue to change and evolve, so must our artists and performers evolve to reflect those audiences. This is not something that classical music has done with success historically, and that must change. For this reason, Peabody has made Diversity a strategic pillar for the Institute, and our work in this area is bearing fruit. Today, our underrepresented minority faculty comprise 13 percent of our faculty, which is more than twice what it was just two years ago, and three times that of our peer music schools across the country. Similarly, underrepresented minority students make up 14 percent of our student population, and that’s increased 60 percent since 2015. We are committed to continued progress across these important areas and we recognize that the statistics are only part of the challenge. We must be sure that when students come to Peabody, they encounter a welcoming and inclusive environment. To that end, we are working to increase access to training opportunities and workshops for students, faculty, and staff to ensure that we are celebrating diversity in all its forms and are institutionally developing the cultural competencies which will only make Peabody and our field stronger for the future. 

Breakthrough Plan 2024

Over the course of this year, Peabody is engaging in a review and development of the next phase of our Breakthrough Plan, which has been the strategic roadmap for the Institute over the last four years. In order to accomplish this “deep dive” on our plan, and reenergize for the future, we have assembled a steering committee supported by ten distinct work groups focused on key areas across the Institute. Together, they are charged with developing a series of strategic goals, and actions to meet those goals over the next five years. This robust process, which began in August and will result in an updated plan by April, has more than 90 faculty, staff, students, and alumni engaged as participants. I know they will provide valuable input.

Reimagining Curriculum and Career

This month marks another milestone in Peabody’s new Breakthrough Curriculum in which students in the new Pitching Your Creative Idea course present final projects, many of which could be contenders to receive funding to implement their projects through the LAUNCH Grant. In this project-based course, students develop and practice essential skills for the 21st century performing artist through designing, proposing and evaluating an artistic project for a setting external to Peabody. And just as Peabody launched its Breakthrough Curriculum in recent years, it has also reimagined its approach to career services through fully integrating LAUNCHPad’s resources, personnel, and visiting career experts into the Breakthrough Curriculum. LAUNCHPad celebrates its move into a beautiful new space this month. 

Naxos Recording

The Peabody Symphony Orchestra’s second commercial recording in four years was released recently on the NAXOS label. The recording highlights the music of Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis, featuring the composer’s Flute Concerto and the Second Symphony. The Flute Concerto, a co-commission between the Peabody Institute, the Detroit Symphony, and others, was written for and performed by Peabody Professor Marina Piccinini. The recording also features conductors Marin Alsop, Peabody director of graduate conducting and music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Leonard Slatkin, music director laureate of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Most professional orchestras would be pleased to have one internationally renowned conductor, let alone two, as is the case with this Peabody recording. We’re proud of it, and hope you’ll give it a listen.   

Parents and Alumni in Asia

Very recently I had the opportunity to visit with alumni and parents of current students in Taiwan and China. It is always a real pleasure to meet the families of our students and to see alumni. Today, nearly 40 percent of our student population is international, comprised largely of students from China, Taiwan, and Korea. (I had a wonderful trip to Korea last June with opportunities to visit with alumni and current parents, and hear the annual concert presented by alumni at the Mozart Hall in Seoul.) During this most recent trip to China and Taiwan, where we have more than 300 alumni, we hosted events in Taipei, Beijing, and Shanghai for parents and alumni of Peabody, as well as other John Hopkins University affiliates. We had the opportunity to discuss Peabody’s progress over the last several years, and our direction as we look to the future, while continuing to build our Peabody community across the globe. 

Arts Leadership

Leading an arts institution is one of the most challenging and rewarding things one can do. I can testify to that having now been engaged in this work with various arts organizations for 25 years. So it is of particular interest to me to have a chance to give our students a “bird’s eye” view of all the issues that we confront in leading arts institutions today. In my arts leadership seminar this fall, 12 undergraduate and graduate students and I have taken this journey together through discussions around mission, vision and values; programming, organizational development, board governance, community engagement, revenue development, financial management, and more. I am encouraged by the way some of our students are thinking about these important issues, which they will very likely confront in different forms in their professional lives, wherever they land. A highlight of the class for me is their capstone projects where teams develop from scratch a non-profit arts institution, and in class presentations and written formats, tell the story of these institutions bringing to bear all the critical aspects of what they have learned. Certainly eye opening for all!

Wrap Up

As always, there is a lot happening at Peabody and much progress to discuss. I look forward to being in touch as we move into the second half of the academic year.