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 on June 1, 2014. He was renewed for a second five-year term beginning July 1, 2019.
During his first term, Dean Bronstein established Peabody’s Breakthrough Plan to focus the Institute on big strategic goals and financial sustainability for the future, 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. Under his leadership, important new initiatives have been launched around these pillars, including a growing footprint at the intersection of the performing arts and health focusing on musician wellness and palliative uses of music to treat disease, which comprises more than 70 partners across the university including healthcare providers, researchers, biomedical engineers, therapists, musicians, dancers, and educators, 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.
At the same time, a suite of performance opportunities, residencies, and partnerships serve to connect Peabody directly with the surrounding community and provide students with experience in engaging diverse audiences. Conservatory programs have been established in Music for New Media and a Dance BFA, both of which graduated their inaugural classes in May 2022. In addition, a revitalized and expanded program in Jazz Studies was launched in September 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 27 percent increase in enrollment since 2017 to 760 students, and a 53 percent increase in net tuition.
In order to engage the entire Peabody community in its vision, early in his tenure Dean Bronstein appointed a number of task forces focused on examining issues around curriculum and performance opportunities, faculty governance, and diversity across the Institute. These efforts resulted in the Breakthrough Curriculum, launched in 2017, which encompasses training in skills essential to the 21st-century performing artist. Peabody also established LAUNCHPad – a 21st-century vision for career services that ensures the integration and practical application of the Breakthrough Curriculum into long-term career objectives.
On a parallel track, Peabody has taken a leadership role in building diversity and inclusion in classical music through the Faculty Diversity Plan which has increased faculty diversity from 6.5 percent in 2017 to 15 percent in 2023 – more than double the national average for schools of music. Similarly, enrollment of underrepresented students for the 2023- 24 academic year is 17 percent of the student cohort – more than doubling the number of underrepresented students in 2015. In order to further deepen this commitment and broaden access, in January 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, this collaborative initiative in the Baltimore-Washington corridor is championing a collective approach to diversifying American classical music. Most recently, Peabody launched its Pathways to DMA program designed to build a more diverse cohort of students pursuing doctoral studies in music with its inaugural recruits matriculating in fall 2023.
And as Peabody’s continued work in diversifying classical music is increasingly critical to the future of the field, Dean Bronstein established the Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Steering Committee in 2020, whose charge was to oversee, advise, and ensure transparency and accountability for ongoing and new efforts in anti-racism and diversity, equity, and inclusion at Peabody. This included the development of specific initiatives associated with DEI goals in the Breakthrough Plan 2024 as well as additional initiatives put forth since the launch of the plan – especially around fighting racism at Peabody and in the performing arts industry as identified in the Dean’s Letter of June 5, 2020. In order to ensure leadership at the executive level, Peabody in 2022 appointed its first Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to drive forward ongoing and future initiatives.
Building 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 from Michael Bloomberg for need-based student aid as part of Mayor 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 four new endowed faculty chairs. Overall, Peabody has worked to grow its annual fundraising efforts with an annual average of $9 million in FY21-FY23, compared to $6 million in FY18-FY20. This level of philanthropy, along with increased enrollment and net tuition, has enabled Peabody to increase the average scholarship support as a percentage of tuition from 35 percent five years ago to nearly 50 percent today while at the same time strengthening its underlying financial operation by significantly reducing historic accumulated deficits that historically ranged from $2 million to $3 million annually. Inclusive of the 2018 Bloomberg gift, Peabody’s total endowment resources have increased from $70 million in 2014 to approximately $185 million today.
Upon his arrival, Dean Bronstein also oversaw development of a $2.7 million Dean’s Fund to seed important 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. Early on, he also established the Dean’s Symposium Series which brings to campus innovative artists and cultural leaders to talk about the evolution of classical music and the performing arts in the 21st-century and creative approaches to meeting related challenges and opportunities.
Early in his tenure, Dean Bronstein restructured the Institute’s administration in order to align with long-term goals, 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 oversaw the development and implementation of Peabody’s first-ever system of rank and promotion for faculty, instituted in 2019.
Dean Bronstein has also 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 addition, 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 tradition as marked by the 2021-22 celebration of the 150th anniversary of Peabody composition, a history that is chock full of important and indeed ground-breaking compositional figures.
In keeping with the focus on Excellence as one of its pillars, Dean Bronstein has made additional high profile appointments including composer Du Yun, 2017 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize; violinist Vadim Gluzman as Distinguished Artist in Residence; and the fulltime appointment of Richard Goode as Distinguished Artist Faculty. Over the course of Bronstein’s tenure, more than 60 new Conservatory faculty have been hired.
At the onset of his second term, and building on progress to date made through the Breakthrough Plan, Dean Bronstein led the Institute in a renewal process to take a fresh look at the Breakthrough Plan, to assess the ongoing fit of initiatives in support of the Five Pillars, and to make refinements and revisions within the framework of the plan to position Peabody for the coming years. Ongoing throughout the 2019-20 academic year, this process engaged faculty, staff, students, volunteers, and alumni, resulting in Peabody’s Breakthrough Plan 2024. This included reimagining Peabody’s mission and core values for the 21st century and to truly reflect Peabody’s position in the world today.
A critical part of this next phase for Peabody also includes development of 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 now been completed in order to develop a new vision for student housing and other amenities, as well as increased programmatic space for Peabody’s growing initiatives. A formal trustee-approved feasibility study will be completed in summer 2023. Plans now include finalizing the scope of the capital plan, timeline and phasing projects, with a goal to complete renovations within the next five years. Building on the progress of the last decade, Peabody is on the cusp of a truly transformational moment in its history
Finally, while challenging, the COVID-19 crisis offered an important leadership moment for Peabody. Dean Bronstein in fall 2020 instituted the Peabody Conservatory Post-COVID Think Tank. With its devastating short-term impact on already fragile arts institutions and artists, and with the expected residual impact likely to be felt for years to come, it is reasonable to see the pandemic not as a temporary interruption but rather as accelerating trends already underway prior to the pandemic. Through the work of the Think Tank, and initiatives like The Next Normal: Arts Innovation and Resilience in a Post-COVID World, an international symposium convened and hosted by Peabody in February 2021; its sequel, The Next Normal 2.0: Flexibility is the Future, a day-long event in November 2021 featuring presenters and panelists from across the performing arts; and most recently in April 2022 The Next Normal: IDEAs for the Future, a symposium that examined racial equity and inclusion in the performing arts, Peabody is leading, convening, and asking important questions of the performing arts field while continuing to challenge itself to be bold in how it approaches training artists in a post-COVID 21st-century environment.
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
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