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August 23, 2022: Quarterly Update

It is almost impossible to believe that summer is behind us, and we are upon the 2022-23 Academic Year here at Peabody. I hope everyone had a productive and pleasant hiatus and is ready to go. I know I am looking forward to the energy that comes with fall semester on campus.

Financial Update

When I last wrote to you in May, we were still working our way toward the close of the fiscal year. I can now give you a precise wrap-up of where we landed.

When Peabody launched its Breakthrough Plan in 2015, and then revitalized it in 2019 as the Breakthrough Plan 2024, we embarked upon an ambitious effort to build a 21st-century curriculum, launch new degree programs, increase scholarship aid, enhance community engagement, upgrade our overall operations, tackle the historic diversity, equity and inclusion challenges of our field, reimagine our mission as reflective of our time, and to underpin these efforts with a more financially sustainable and healthy model for the future, and in the process eliminate long-standing structural deficits.

Peabody has made major progress in all the programmatic initiatives undertaken as part of the Breakthrough Plan, and at the same time, significant strides in eliminating those deficits. Peabody’s planned deficits or “negative margins” (the gap between revenue and expenses) have hovered between 5 and 8% for the last four years. For FY22, the year concluded on June 30th, that negative margin was dramatically reduced to well under 1%, or less than $300,000 on a $43 million budget. While our current financial outlook does plan for a spike in the deficit in FY23 due to some residual impact of the pandemic, we are on track to begin to generate positive margins in FY24.

An important part of Peabody’s ability to strengthen our sustainability is our fundraising which had its best year on record in FY22, raising $10.4 million on a goal of $6.95 million, exceeding last year’s total of $9.74 million raised. Both FY21 and FY22 well exceeded our annual fundraising in FY18 through FY20, which ranged from $4.6 million to $7.2 million. We are dedicated to building on this positive trajectory going forward.

2022-23 Student Demographics

With the start of the 2022-23 academic year we welcome 750 students to campus—the largest number in our history, surpassing the projected goal for new incoming students by nearly nine percent. Forty-two percent of the total student population will be international, representing more than 39 countries including Korea, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and others. Forty-four of the 50 United States will also be represented on campus. Out of a total 2,061 applications this year, we have seen a significant increase in applications from China, which represents 24% of this year’s cohort. And the student body at Peabody is growing in diversity. Fifteen percent of our incoming class, and 17-18% of total enrolled students, come from historically underrepresented communities. In addition, while many of our disciplines continue to grow, we are seeing particular increased interest in Music Engineering and Technology programs with applications up 40%, driving important conversations around new program development across these areas. Of course, the numbers tell just part of the story. We are also seeing a very talented class, as evidenced by the increased proportion of matriculating students in the top twentieth percentile of faculty audition ratings, coupled with a 5% increase in our yield, the proportion of admitted students who are enrolling this year.

As you can see, this makes for a very diverse, cosmopolitan, and talented community here at Peabody. We are thrilled to welcome our new and returning students.

Campus Planning

As we plan future fundraising efforts, capital improvements are front of mind. Nearly two years ago, Peabody began initial planning for a comprehensive campus improvement project – a key initiative in our Breakthrough Plan 2024 – working closely with the architectural firm of Hord Coplan Macht and our colleagues at Johns Hopkins University Facilities. We all love so many things about this historic Mount Vernon campus, while also recognizing the challenges of accommodating significant programmatic expansion and the changing needs of our students within our current infrastructure.

We are thinking boldly about this issue. We have now completed two preliminary studies focused on improving the student life experience especially in housing and dining, along with a deep dive on how to best accommodate rapidly changing needs for future programmatic space across our campus. On a parallel track, Peabody has done an assessment of debt and philanthropic capacity to support a major campus improvement project.

We reached a critical juncture this past June when we received approval from JHU’s Board of Trustees to advance to a formal feasibility study, which we are undertaking this fall and plan to complete in early spring. This will be a major step towards developing enhanced detail around the proposed improvements to our campus, refined costs on undertaking this project, and further financial planning to support what we expect will be an exciting and transformational vision of the Peabody campus. One of things that makes Peabody unique today is the melding of its long and deep tradition of conservatory practice, with a forward-looking and innovative approach to curriculum and to the performing arts field.  Our next step is to ensure our campus can both support and reflect that academic vision while better serving our students and faculty.

New Addition to the Peabody Institute Executive Team

This September we welcome Bob Halbruner to Peabody as our new Associate Dean for External Relations. Bob comes to us from the Smithsonian Institution where he served as Director of Individual Advancement since 2019. In this capacity Bob was a member of the Office of Advancement leadership team, working across all Smithsonian museums and centers, and oversaw a staff of 23 responsible for raising $50 million in new commitments annually. Before beginning his twenty-plus-year career in development, Bob’s background was in music. He’s a proud alum of Peabody where he received his Master of Music degree in piano, placing Bob in a unique position to meld his considerable advancement experience and skills with a passion for, and very personal connection to, our mission.

Launching New “Pathways to DMA” Program

You have seen me report regularly on the range of work that is going on in the critical ADEI space at Peabody, in all areas from recruitment of faculty, staff, and students, to expanding the range and diversity of the art being studied and performed. An area of notable success over the last five years has been in the substantively increased diversity of our student cohort, as noted above. While we seek to build on this progress generally, we are especially focused on building a more diverse and representative Doctor of Musical Arts program.

As part of JHU’s newly launched Pathways to PhD award program, the university is investing $5 million to create “pathway” programs that attract and prepare students underrepresented in academia to pursue PhDs (in our case, DMAs) in non-STEM fields. I am so pleased to report that Peabody has been awarded $1 million of this funding to support the launch of its Pathways to DMA initiative that will provide two students in each cohort of our Master of Music program with grant funding and a dedicated pathway into the DMA program. This is a significant step forward in building on the material progress we have made in the diversification of our undergraduate student cohort – so critical to the future of our field – by carving out a unique and highly visible way to bring a similar range of diversity to our graduate programs, especially the Doctor of Musical Arts degree. I am most grateful to Carl DuPont, Zane Forshee, Richard Giarusso, Paul Mathews, and Townsend Plant for their leadership in developing this new initiative.

Summing Up

As always, and as you can see, we have lots happening at Peabody, and much to do as we move forward. Stay tuned for more updates about these and other areas of interest.