November 15, 2016: Diversity Update

To all members of the Peabody community,

President Daniels’ recent message to the entire Johns Hopkins University community offers a good opportunity to review initiatives at Peabody recently undertaken in the critical area of diversity.

Over the last year, members of search committees at Peabody, both for faculty and administrative positions have undergone “unconscious bias” training through resources provided by the University.  We are continuing that process this year, and also have added an additional component, by appointing a diversity advocate as part of any search committee going forward.  In addition, along with the other University divisions, Peabody has begun work on a three-year faculty diversity objectives plan.

Those of us in the professional world of classical music know well that diversity is a major challenge, especially in orchestras, although in most other areas of classical music as well.  We need to acknowledge this honestly in order to see it change in the future.  It also means that for this to change, we need to commit ourselves at the Peabody Institute to being part of developing a more robust pipeline of diverse talent early on.  We have started to do this in programs like “Tuned-In” in the Preparatory which identifies and provides training to a diverse population, and has led directly to matriculation by its participants at Peabody and other college level music programs.  We are also in the early stages of exploring a program in the Conservatory that can help us attract and nurture more diversity in our student population at Peabody.  It is also important to note that the more we engage in the Baltimore community, as we are doing so increasingly and will do even more as students, in response to reimagining curriculum, ramp up activities beyond Peabody’s walls, the more we can create a genuine connection between Peabody and different communities.

This is a lengthy and difficult process, but one which we are committed to pursuing.  Given Peabody’s long, and at times, uneven history when it comes to providing an open and welcoming environment, I believe we have an extra obligation to be both serious and unwavering in our commitment to do all we can in the short term to broaden our diversity, and to commit ourselves to being part of solving the long term “pipeline” dilemma that has vexed classical music for too long.  We should also remember that diversity in the largest sense translates directly to audience development, so critical to classical music’s future.  Diversity in the professional music world will impact that future positively by putting more diverse performers on stage, and that ultimately leads to more diverse audiences.

Last spring, in the wake of the riots in Baltimore, Peabody had a number of community conversations about the riots, race and our own perceptions and feelings.  Some of the conversations while painful, were honest and necessary.  We plan to look for ways to continue that conversation this year as we move forward with other initiatives.

I welcome all members of the Peabody community to this important discussion.


Fred Bronstein