September 1, 2023: Quarterly Update

I hope you all had a productive and pleasant summer. I am writing today delighted to be welcoming all members of our Peabody community back to campus, and to share some important updates.

Financial Update

Stabilizing and strengthening Peabody’s financial structure has been key to its continued academic growth, with a strong financial plan underpinning Peabody’s academic and programmatic expansion. Multi-year plans to eliminate long-standing structural deficits, which historically have ranged from $2 million to $3 million, have resulted in dramatically reduced deficits in recent years and an expectation that Peabody will become revenue positive by FY25. For the recently completed FY23, Peabody’s planned deficit was 23 percent less than budgeted.

Fundraising is an important part of strengthening Peabody’s financial infrastructure. This past year fundraising, as measured by cash received, reached $9.4 million, exceeding its goal, while on an average annual basis fundraising has increased from $6 million in FY18-FY20, to an annual average of $10 million in FY21-FY23. Peabody’s available endowment resources continue to grow, having increased from $70 million in FY14 to $185 million today, including $50 million from Michael Bloomberg’s 2018 financial aid gift to Johns Hopkins University.

Welcoming our students

As you may be aware, we have been growing the number of students on campus, from 575 only six years ago to more than 800 this fall, the largest cohort in Peabody’s 166-year history. This year our students come to us from 35 countries and 46 of the 50 states in the U.S. The increasing diversity of our campus is now comprised of 16 percent of students who come from historically underrepresented communities. And here I will reiterate our commitment to Peabody’s role in creating a more diverse and inclusive community and field of professionals in the performing arts. The demographic winds blow heavily in the direction of a future that will depend on attracting more diverse audiences than historically has ever been the case. That can only happen if the range and breadth of creative voices in our field reflects our world. With the recent decision from the United States Supreme Court striking down any kind of consideration of race in decisions around admissions, we rededicate ourselves to a diverse community of students, faculty and staff. Our values remain unchanged.

Administrative Reorganization

Just last month I announced important changes to our administrative structure. A key strategic goal of this change is to bring together under one umbrella the academic and applied areas of the Institute with enrollment and student life, something that will be important to Peabody as we consider the evolution of our enrollment model, ensure the success of our students, and plan moves to further strengthen Peabody’s competitive position.

With this new structure, Townsend Plant steps into a new, expanded role as Senior Associate Dean of Institute Affairs. Reporting to this role is a newly created Associate Dean for Conservatory Faculty & Education, with Paul Mathews promoted to this role; Andrew Kipe in an expanded role as Assistant Dean for Performance Activities and Preparatory Education; Stacy Cooper Patterson promoted to Senior Director of Student Affairs, an enhanced leadership role as chief student affairs officer for the Conservatory; and a planned new senior enrollment management role that will oversee the work of admissions and financial aid, reflecting the importance of continuing to build the sophistication of our enrollment management capabilities and processes.

New Faculty

Underlying everything Peabody does is our great faculty which boasts world renowned artist-teachers, including Pulitzer Prize winners and performers of note across a myriad of disciplines. Our faculty is the reason students come to Peabody. The last seven years have seen a generational shift in faculty, with the hiring of more than 80 new faculty members, a reimagined governance structure, and the implementation of rank and promotion, increasing our ability to recruit and retain top talent.

I am especially pleased to welcome new full-time faculty to Peabody this year, including Kris Chesky, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, and Chair of Peabody’s newly established Department of Performing Arts & Health; Remi Chiu, Professor and Chair, Musicology; HieYon Choi, Professor, Piano; Qingfan Jian, Assistant Professor, Musicology. You can read their bios and browse the list of all new and returning full-time, part-time, visiting and adjunct Conservatory faculty in our faculty directory.

Performing Arts & Health

As many of you are aware, the intersection of performing arts and health is a rapidly growing area for Peabody, encompassing health for performing artists as well as engagement with the performing arts to enhance well-being. The most recent development in this area includes the appointment of Peabody’s first Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Dr. Kris Chesky, who holds a joint appointment with the School of Medicine, and is charged with establishing a research lab at Peabody and new programs in performing arts health, science, and education. A team of three post-docs will support Dr. Chesky’s work and manage a growing portfolio of research initiatives. All of this adds to an established footprint that includes the Johns Hopkins Rehabilitative Network Clinic for Performing Artists at Peabody—the first clinic of its kind to provide diagnostic and therapeutic services on a premier conservatory campus; the work that has been embedded in the Conservatory student experience with the Peak Performance Fundamentalsprogram; and Peabody’s partnership with Johns Hopkins Hospital to bring the arts into healthcare, offering musician visits at patient bedsides through the Sound Rounds program, and providing daily live music in public spaces throughout the hospital campus through the Music for a While program.

To help lead this expanding footprint, Sarah Hoover’s role is pivoting to focus exclusively on Performing Arts and Health here at Peabody and JHU as Associate Dean for Innovation in the Arts and Health.

Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C. at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

High on a long list of major university initiatives unfolding this year is the opening of Johns Hopkins in Washington at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Peabody has played an important role in the development of the performance space in the building, and already has planned for more than 20 performances during the coming academic year, which will include faculty, student, and alumni performances featuring orchestra, jazz, dance and opera. The space also gives us the opportunity to partner with Washington-based organizations, and to use this as a platform to continue convening our Next Normal conversations on a national stage. In addition, the university has placed a high priority on engaging faculty from all divisions in this space, establishing the Nexus Awards to support faculty proposals. I am pleased to note that three Peabody faculty were chosen for these grants including Director of Graduate Conducting Marin Alsop, Jazz Assistant Professor Richard Johnson, and Composition Associate Professor Felipe Lara.

During the official dedication week in mid-October, Peabody will be featured in the inaugural concert in the new theatre and other special performances throughout the week. We are thrilled to be establishing what will be a permanent presence in our nation’s capital.

Campus Renovations

As Peabody has made very significant progress in its academic trajectory and as we continue to lead in important areas, it has become increasingly essential to address some of the challenges posed by our historic campus. Peabody’s campus is remarkable in many ways but it is also in need of updating to accommodate new and expanding programs. Necessary infrastructure improvements range from modernizing HVAC systems to bolstering electrical capacity in Friedberg Hall, to updating campus audio and visual capabilities. Peabody’s last major capital project was 20 years ago and connected Peabody buildings by turning an alley into the central Arcade, which in many ways defines the physical center of gravity for Peabody today.

We envision this new project to dramatically transform Peabody’s campus, integrating its 166-year history and tradition, as manifested in its buildings, with forward-looking 21st century spaces, much in the same way that Peabody has thought about its academic and programmatic growth: a strong and deep tradition, that is innovative and forward-looking.

To date, we have completed two pre-studies, and are just weeks away from completing a formal trustee-approved feasibility study addressing key aspects of renovation including housing, dining and programmatic spaces across the Peabody campus. In the next few months we expect to know in greater detail the scope and scale of this project, timeline, and critical next steps. I look forward to sharing with our community as we finalize these details.

For now, as we begin a new academic year, I want to wish all members of the Peabody community a prosperous and productive fall semester.