Dean of the Peabody Institute

Fred Bronstein

Fred Bronstein—an accomplished pianist, dedicated music educator, and successful chief executive of American symphony orchestras—began his appointment as the first dean of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in 2014 and was renewed for a second five-year term in 2019.

Early in his tenure, Dean Bronstein established Peabody’s  Breakthrough Plan to focus the Institute on strategic goals and financial sustainability, built around five pillars: Excellence—to make Peabody as competitive as the most renowned schools of Johns Hopkins University; Interdisciplinary Experiences—to “own” the infusion of music and dance across other disciplines in higher education; Innovation—to establish Peabody, the oldest conservatory in the U.S., as a leading institution thinking about the future of the performing arts; Community Connectivity—to connect the Institute with communities through collaborations and partnerships, while giving students the needed skills to be flexible and vibrant 21st-century artists; and Diversity—excellence, changing demographics, and the evolution of the musical landscape make this central to the future of the performing arts. A renewal process engaging faculty, staff, students, volunteers, and alumni throughout the 2019-20 academic year resulted in a refreshed Breakthrough Plan 2024 and a reimagined mission and core values truly reflecting Peabody’s historic stature and position in the world today.

Under Bronstein’s leadership, important new initiatives have been launched around the strategic pillars, including a growing footprint at the intersection of the performing arts and health which comprises more than 70 partners across the university, as well as establishing the Johns Hopkins Rehabilitation Network Clinic for Performing Artists at the Peabody Institute, the first of its kind on a music school campus. In 2023, these initiatives led to Peabody’s first Bloomberg Distinguished Professorship, a joint appointment with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Conservatory programs have been established in Music for New Media, followed most recently by a new master’s program in Film & Video Game Composition, and a Dance BFA. Both the Dance and New Media programs graduated their inaugural classes in May 2022. In addition, a revitalized and expanded program in Jazz Studies was launched in 2018, and expanded Composition and technology-based programs such as Computer Music have doubled in enrollment. Overall, new and expanded programs have led to a 40 percent increase in enrollment since 2017 from 570 to more than 800 students today, resulting in an 85 percent increase in net tuition.

The result of a task force Dean Bronstein appointed early in his tenure to examine the curriculum and performance opportunities, the Breakthrough Curriculum, launched in 2017, encompasses training in skills essential to the 21st-century performing artist. Peabody also established LAUNCHPad—a modern vision for performing arts career services that ensures the integration and practical application of the Breakthrough Curriculum into long-term career objectives. In addition, a suite of performance opportunities, residencies, and partnerships serves to connect Peabody with the surrounding community and provide students with experience in engaging diverse audiences.

On a parallel track, Peabody has taken a leadership role in building diversity and inclusion in classical music, identifying and executing critical and comprehensive DEI initiatives which have increased faculty diversity from 6.5 percent in 2017 to 16 percent in 2023—more than double the national average for schools of music, and increased enrollment of underrepresented minority students to 16 percent of the student cohort in 2023-24—more than doubling the number of underrepresented students in 2015. In 2020 Peabody became a founding member, along with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and other Washington-based partners, of the Baltimore-Washington Musical Pathways (BWMP) to prepare and support high school musicians from communities historically underrepresented in U.S. orchestras for study at music conservatories or as music majors at colleges and universities, with an award of $3 million in grant funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Pathways to DMA program, whose inaugural students matriculated in fall 2023, is designed to build a more diverse cohort of students pursuing doctoral studies in music. And building on the work of the Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Steering Committee established in 2020, Peabody in 2022 appointed its first Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to provide strategic leadership in carrying forward the specific initiatives outlined in the Breakthrough Plan 2024 and as part of Johns Hopkins University’s Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion.

Increasing philanthropic resources for the Peabody Institute has been an area of key focus for Dean Bronstein, leading to the receipt of the largest gift in Peabody’s history at that time—$50 million for need-based student aid as part of Michael Bloomberg’s historic $1.8 billion gift to Johns Hopkins University in 2018. In addition, in recent years, Peabody has received multiple gifts from individuals of $1 million or more, which, with matching funds, have established a series of new endowed faculty chairs. Overall, Peabody has grown its annual fundraising to an annual average of $10 million in FY21-FY23, compared to $6 million in FY18-FY20. Excluding university-held endowment funds, Peabody’s endowment resources have increased from $70 million in 2014 to approximately $145 million today.

This level of philanthropy, along with increased enrollment and net tuition, have enabled Peabody to increase the average scholarship support as a percentage of tuition from 35% five years ago to nearly 50% today. And beginning in fall 2024, supported by institutional resources and philanthropic contributions, the Peabody Conservatory will meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all domestic undergraduate students, without loans. The ability to meet 100% of a student’s financial need is unusual among conservatories or schools of music as most aid is in the form of merit-based scholarships. Peabody is now the largest conservatory in the U.S. and one of only a very few of our music school or conservatory peers to make the commitment to meet full financial need, allowing more students greater access to a high-level conservatory education unencumbered by debt.

Financial sustainability has also been a high priority in the Breakthrough Plan. Through new programs and philanthropy as well as strong budget stewardship, Peabody has strengthened its underlying financial operation and, in FY24, eliminated structural deficits, which historically ranged from $2 million to $3 million annually. Upon his arrival, Dean Bronstein also oversaw development of a $2.7 million Dean’s Fund to seed innovations and facilitate change. The Dean’s Fund has allowed for the launch of Dean’s Incentive Grants for faculty and students designed to spur innovative work in the field, and has now expanded to include the Dean’s Excellence Accelerator Awards to fund professional activities of faculty.

As Peabody has grown and evolved over the past decade, Dean Bronstein has restructured the Institute’s administration twice in order to align with its long-term goals and academic vision. Peabody also restructured faculty governance resulting in the adoption of new bylaws in April 2017, revamped faculty contracts to reflect best practices and incorporate faculty evaluation for the first time, and developed and implemented Peabody’s first-ever system of rank and promotion for faculty, instituted in 2019.

Dean Bronstein has committed Peabody to a bold vision for music of our time with the recording of the Peabody Symphony Orchestra’s first CD on Naxos featuring the music of Peabody faculty member and Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Kevin Puts, conducted by Marin Alsop, whom Dean Bronstein appointed as director of Peabody’s Graduate Conducting program. A second Naxos recording, featuring conductors Marin Alsop and Leonard Slatkin, was released in 2019. In 2022 Peabody launched its own label, Peabody Premieres,  to record and represent the work of underrepresented composers. This focus on new music builds on Peabody’s deep history of important and ground-breaking compositional figures, reflected in the 2021-22 celebration of the 150th anniversary of Peabody composition.

In keeping with the focus on Excellence as one of its pillars, Dean Bronstein has made additional high profile faculty appointments including composer Du Yun, 2017 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize; violinist Vadim Gluzman as Distinguished Artist in Residence; and the full-time appointment of Richard Goode as Distinguished Artist Faculty. Over Bronstein’s tenure, more than 60 new Conservatory faculty have been hired.

Peabody has also recently expanded its performance footprint with the 2023 opening of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center in Washington, D.C. In the state-of-the-art performance hall designed specifically with Peabody in mind, Peabody has undertaken a regular series of performances by faculty, students, and alumni, creating an active presence in our nation’s capital.

Looking ahead, Bronstein has led the Peabody campus community in developing a campus masterplan to ensure that Peabody’s historic Mt. Vernon campus can support its robust growth and future-oriented academic programs. Two preliminary phases of study begun in 2020 have been completed, providing a new vision for student housing and other amenities as well as appropriate space for Peabody’s growing programmatic initiatives. A formal trustee-approved feasibility study was completed in fall 2023. Plans now include finalizing the scope of the capital plan and timeline, and phasing projects, with a goal to complete renovations within the next five years. Building on the progress of the last decade and its recent investment in financial aid, Peabody is on the cusp of a truly transformational moment in its history.

Finally, Peabody’s leadership as a catalyst and convener of critical discourse in the performing arts industry—seeded when Bronstein established the Dean’s Symposium Series bringing to campus innovative artists and cultural leaders to talk about the evolution of the performing arts in the 21st-century—was further elevated during the COVID-19 crisis. Dean Bronstein in fall 2020 instituted the Peabody Conservatory Post-COVID Think Tank to consider how the pandemic’s devastating impact on already fragile arts institutions and artists accelerated trends that were already under way. The work of the Think Tank led to a groundbreaking international symposium convened and hosted by Peabody in February 2021 called The Next Normal: Arts Innovation and Resilience in a Post-COVID World. Its sequel, The Next Normal 2.0:  Flexibility is the Future, in November 2021 featured presenters and panelists from across the performing arts; and an April 2022 symposium, The Next Normal: IDEAs for the Future, examined racial equity and inclusion in the performing arts.

Dean Bronstein came to Peabody after serving as president of the renowned St. Louis Symphony since 2008. During his tenure in St. Louis, Bronstein led efforts to reverse steep multi-year downturns in symphony attendance resulting in a 36 percent increase in ticket revenue and a 26 percent increase in annual philanthropic support. In collaboration with the symphony’s artistic leadership, he introduced innovative concert programming, returned the orchestra to domestic and international touring after long absences, initiated new recording projects, and launched live performances on public radio. He led creation and execution of a 10-year strategic plan, sealed new collective bargaining agreements with musicians well before old contracts expired, managed expenses to reduce deficits, and restructured the symphony’s marketing, education, and community outreach.

Prior to St. Louis, Bronstein served as president of the Omaha Symphony and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra where he led the search for a new and then unknown music director, Jaap van Zweden, who after less than a decade in Dallas was appointed the music director of the New York Philharmonic.

The move from a major orchestra to a university and conservatory was a natural extension of Bronstein’s career-long interest in the formation of young musicians. His first arts administrative experience was as executive director of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the training orchestra of the Chicago Symphony, which has hundreds of alumni employed with orchestras around the world.

As a performer, Bronstein toured for eight years and could be heard on New World Records as part of Aequalis, a chamber group he co-founded with a focus on new American music, innovative programming, and educational outreach. Fred Bronstein graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Music and earned a Master of Music degree at the Manhattan School of Music. He received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the State University of New York, Stony Brook. In 2005, Boston University’s College of Fine Arts presented him its Alumni Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession. He has served on the college’s Dean’s Advisory Council and on the university’s Board of Overseers. Bronstein was named by Musical America as one of thirty top “Innovators” in 2016.


Jackie Tyson, Executive Assistant
667-208-6501, [email protected]