As we approach the halfway mark of the spring semester, and the two-year mark for the pandemic, I am pleased to be able to report that for the most part we are functioning normally, and that as the trajectory continues to improve, we look forward to the relaxation of restrictions that affect all our lives. I continue to be so proud of how our students have persevered during this very challenging time, and how our faculty and staff have worked hard to ensure that we could continue to fulfill the mission of educating the next generation of performing artists, teachers, and scholars.
We were pleased to recently welcome Sam Wilson to Peabody as our new Associate Dean for Finance & Administration/Divisional Business Officer. Sam came to us with over 14 years of experience, from his post as Chief Business Officer for the College of Health Sciences at the University of Delaware, a position he held for five years. In his previous role Sam was responsible for the management and oversight of all administrative and business functions including budgeting and planning; procurement services; human resources; research administration; information technology; and facilities planning. Sam brings deep knowledge in strategic business development as well as strong experience and analysis of financial business models to manage and plan for current and future activities, programs, and the development of new revenue streams.
The Peabody Preparatory is a critical part of the Institute, and a primary connector throughout the region. With campuses in Mt. Vernon, Towson, Howard County, and Annapolis, Peabody Prep serves thousands of budding musicians and dancers across the mid-Atlantic area. A new location in Howard County, housed in St. John’s Episcopal Church, is an exciting development that will allow us to further expand our base of activities in Howard County.
While we have mostly been able to weather the financial fallout of two years of COVID, a slowdown in the pace of enrollment growth coupled with significant investments we have needed to make in COVID protocols to carry on and keep our community safe has inevitably had some impact. Nonetheless, Peabody has been determined to remain on track with both our strategic Breakthrough Plan 2024 and the accompanying financial plan to reduce longstanding structural deficits. While we remain poised to post the smallest operating deficit in years for FY22, we expect to continue the hard work of reducing and eliminating structural deficits in the coming year. As we turn this important financial corner, we can turn our attention to building positive operating margins in the years ahead which will be critical to help fund major capital upgrades to our Mt. Vernon campus.
A vital part of our stabilization of Peabody’s financial base is our sharpened and increasingly strategic development operation. As of mid-February, we have raised 120 percent of our total goal for FY22 with $8.34 million raised on a goal of $6.95 million, largely due to a nearly $4 million estate gift to endowment. Our endowment has grown significantly in the last five years, and has now reached more than $160 million, thanks to new gifts (including three new endowed professorships), bequests, and market growth. In current use funding, which directly impacts the operating budget, we have achieved 70 percent of that goal, or $3.7 million on a goal of $5.25 million. While we still have a ways to go in the current fiscal year, our development team is working diligently to build on the strong trajectory in endowment and current use donations that we saw last year.
Among many reasons it is important to be on track with our financial goals is the exciting planning now going on around future investment in our facility.
More than a year ago, Peabody embarked on development of a comprehensive campus planning 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. Peabody is fortunate to have our wonderful and historic Mt. Vernon campus, but we also recognize that as an older campus, and especially given our significant programmatic expansion in recent years and the ever-changing needs of our students, it is time for us to address major capital needs which we believe will benefit our faculty, students, staff, and community for decades to come.
With completion of a first phase of study focused on the modernization and improvement of the student life experience, especially on-campus living and dining, we are now in a second phase which is focusing on future needs for programmatic space across our campus. This part of the study, expected to be completed in April, is assessing overall space utilization on the Peabody campus and how that may be reconfigured, adapted, and utilized in the future as it pertains to both programmatic use and student life. On a parallel track, Peabody is developing its financial plan that includes an assessment of debt and philanthropic capacity to support a major campus improvement project. In the months ahead we will seek trustee approval of a formal study as a final step toward establishing detailed plans for the project.
You can expect to hear more about this exciting, transformational vision of the Peabody campus as planning continues.
As Peabody continues to take a leadership role in convening and leading important conversations in our field about issues critical to the performing arts, we prepare for our next incarnation of Next Normal events with another full day symposium scheduled for April 27. The topic: How might we reimagine the performing arts industry and performing arts training in order to advance racial equity in the field, broaden and diversify the range of creative voices heard and seen on our stages, and build expanded audiences that fully reflect the diversity of current and future communities?
The program will include national voices on this subject – so critical to the future of the performing arts – in dialogue with our field, and will build on the important work that is already being done in the ADEI space at Peabody, from revisiting the curriculum in the Culturally Responsive Curriculum Task Force, to work on our culture involving the ADEI Steering Committee and constituencies across the Peabody community.
We are now preparing to graduate the first class of our Dance BFA and Music for New Media programs this May, followed in June by the launch of a pilot low-residency master’s degree program in composition. Even as we cross these new thresholds, it is not too soon to be thinking about the next generation of new programs.
While it is early days, I am excited about work being done to develop new and expanded programs in our Music Engineering and Technology department, where we expect to see significant opportunity for growth – in the intersection of technology and performance – and where Peabody has a very strong foothold already through current programs in New Media, Computer Music, Recording Arts, and Composition. These all provide a beachhead for Peabody expansion across these areas.
Working groups are currently assessing where the best opportunities lie with an initial focus on master’s and certificate programs. Our goal is to launch the first of these new programs in fall 2023.
As you can see, there is, as always, much happening at Peabody. I look forward to keeping you updated as we move forward with these and other important initiatives.