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June 5, 2020: Fighting Racism

Members of the Peabody Community,

A few days have passed since I wrote to you in response to the killing of George Floyd and the impact that it has had on communities across the country, including the pain that it has caused many members of our Peabody community.  Like you, I was horrified by what we all witnessed, and while I cannot begin to understand how this feels as a member of the Black community, I personally want to understand the contributing systemic issues at the deepest level, and I pledge that I am working to do that.   

At the same time, the flood of protests across our country, and indeed around the world, has been a heartening show of solidarity and a demonstration that actions matter.  President Obama’s comments this week before the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance were somber, yet hopeful.  Most importantly, he talked about how every community must act at the local level, and that this is how true change happens. 

Peabody is our community and so we too must think in terms of action steps at the local level.  To me, that means that we must do a better job of owning up to and confronting racism, beginning here at Peabody.  And in the end, actions matter most, so that is what we must focus on. 

Accordingly, we are committing ourselves to the following new initiatives at Peabody:

  • Launch a regular series of community conversations on fighting racism and creating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion, hosted by guest moderators, for the Peabody community beginning in fall 2020.
  • Plan, convene and host a national forum on addressing racism in the performing arts in fall 2020.     
  • Make diversity, equity and inclusion training mandatory for all faculty and staff.
  • Establish funding immediately for an annual commission by a Black composer.
  • Thoroughly integrate a broader set of musical experiences and styles into the curriculum, including in programming for ensembles and academic courses across the Conservatory, by standing up a task force of faculty, staff and students who will work through the coming academic year to report a plan in spring 2021 for implementation in fall 2021.

In addition, we pledge to build on existing efforts to confront historic racism in our institution and field:

  • Seek now to fully fund the Peabody Preparatory Tuned-In program which provides a pathway to the performing arts for promising young Black and Latinx musicians, and which forms the core of Peabody’s involvement in the Baltimore-Washington Musical Pathways collaborative with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, supported by the Mellon Foundation, which seeks to diversify the American classical music field.
  • Commit to doubling funding over the next two years for the Peabody Institute Diversity Fund, established in 2016.
  • Continue an intense focus on recruiting faculty of color, who now comprise 13 percent of our faculty, and further our efforts in recruiting and supporting students of color in their campus experience, and who will comprise 16 percent of our student cohort this fall. 
  • Build on our commitment to bring artists from racially diverse backgrounds to campus.
  • Develop Institute staff and Preparatory faculty diversity, while creating a transparent process for assessment and accountability at Peabody around issues of diversity, by establishing a task force to work on the goals identified in the Optimizing the Peabody Experience and Building Community section of the Breakthrough Plan 2024,

Four years ago, we established Diversity as one of Peabody’s Five Pillars.  We have articulated this Pillar as a commitment to help lead change across an industry that for too long has been unwelcoming, exclusionary, and resistant to change.  For most of its history, Peabody was part of that ecosystem.  It is against that backdrop that we now continue the work we have started, and further strengthen our commitment to dramatically change our world.  We must see this as an opportunity to not just reflect on these recent events but galvanize our own commitment into action at Peabody and, in the process, set an example for our field. 

At the same time, we should in no way see this list of actions as complete.  There is much more to be done and we will continue to learn and change through this work.  And even as we may get things wrong from time to time, we risk far more if we do not do enough or try hard enough.  Any measure of progress requires the commitment of every member of the Peabody community, and I believe we are all prepared to do our part.  I thank you for that shared commitment and look forward to continuing this conversation with our community as we move forward together. 

Sincerely,

Fred Bronstein
Dean