As we approach the close of the Fall 2015 semester, I am pleased to share some news and updates from the Peabody Institute, where strategically we are focusing on the Four Pillars of Excellence, Interdisciplinary Experiences, Innovation, and Community Connectivity.
In the area of Excellence, the appointment of Marin Alsop as director of graduate conducting; the launch of a search for a new artistic director of the opera program as well as the great success of Fall opera productions at Peabody; the start of work by the Reimagining Ensembles at Peabody Task Force led by Alan Stepansky; implementation of an evaluative process in faculty contracts for the first time as well as initiating development of a faculty diversity plan; in addition to building our talent pool in the leadership and staff at Peabody and increasing our enrollment yield and selectivity, all represent substantive benchmarks in our collective commitment to excellence and making Peabody on par with the most competitive programs of Johns Hopkins University and Medicine.
In the area of Interdisciplinary Experiences, initial work on a joint Peabody Institute/JHU Medicine Music & Medicine collaboration has led to initiation of a task force to define the scope and priorities of this effort, and to establishing Peabody’s first-ever full-time faculty position fully devoted to research focused on musicians’ occupational health.
In the area of Innovation, Peabody’s footprint in new music expands significantly this year with the launch of Now Hear This, Peabody’s new contemporary chamber ensemble whose recent inaugural concert generated palpable excitement. We look forward to extending that excitement as Peabody hosts the second annual New Music Gathering here in Baltimore in January. Also recently launched and new this year, the Dean’s Symposiums kicked off with cultural commentator and author Norman Lebrecht in a lively and provocative conversation about the future of classical music, while the inaugural round of Dean’s Incentive Grants – designed to incent innovation among faculty and students – has garnered 27 competitive applications. Also important to note, plans are underway to launch a pilot program in on-line instruction before the end of this academic year.
Community Connectivity is an expanding area as demonstrated by the launch of pilot programs like the Young Artists Development Series, a partnership with El Paso Pro-Musica that placed two students in a week-long community residency of performances, talks, and media engagements in El Paso, Texas, this November. Closer to home, Peabody welcomed the Yellow Barn Music Haul to Baltimore for free performances in the Remington neighborhood, at Lockerman-Bundy Elementary School in West Baltimore, and on the JHU Homewood campus. Also just announced is a new partnership with WBJC 91.5 FM, Maryland’s Classical Music Station. The new series, “Peabody Today,” features rebroadcasts of Peabody concerts to a regional audience. Addressing this area broadly, the just launched Peabody Curriculum for the Future Task Force will be discussing and recommending skills in communication, audience development, programming, and community connectivity that should be integrated into Peabody’s curriculum as we train future “citizen-artists.”
The several Task Forces now underway – including the Peabody Curriculum for the Future, Reimagining Ensembles at Peabody, and the Governance Task Force – are all central to the discussion around Peabody’s expanding vision for the future of professional music training. This is an enormously exciting process and opportunity for Peabody to engage in a deep conversation about where music as an art and profession is going, and how Peabody can lead in this conversation. I am especially pleased that these task forces are engaging an unprecedented number of Peabody faculty, along with administration, students, alumni, and members of the Peabody National Advisory Council in these processes. The organic and inclusive nature of this work promises an excellent result for Peabody.
At the same time, we are actively working to address issues of diversity and inclusion in higher education and in our field. I have just returned from a two-day forum convened by the Mellon Foundation and League of American Orchestras which focused on the historic and ongoing lack of diversity in our industry. It is clear that we need to approach this challenge from the perspective of Peabody’s role in the continuum of finding and nurturing young artists of color. We must think creatively about how to maximize the potential for programs like Tuned In in our Preparatory, and how we in Baltimore can convene partners to work on this issue collectively. And it is important to note that Peabody is fully committed to Johns Hopkins’ University-wide Faculty Diversity Initiative. We as a community at Peabody must help lead a dialogue about the challenge of diversity in parts of the music world, specifically classical music, and engage with each other in a conversation about diversity and inclusion here at Peabody. We have important work to do here and are committed to doing that work.
It is exciting to see the number of future-oriented initiatives that are now happening here, and the potential impact and implicit importance of these new directions. They pave the way to marry Peabody’s deep and long history to a future vision that embraces excellence in the context of holistic education, innovation, inclusion, and the artist’s role in communities. This is essential work for the future of classical music and for both the Peabody and greater Baltimore communities, and it is a great journey to be on. I welcome your thoughts and questions as we look to the future.