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November 18, 2022: Quarterly Update

I am always astounded at how quickly the fall passes, and this year is certainly no exception. I am pleased to write to you with some updates as we approach the close of the semester.

Financial Update

We continue largely on track with our multi-year financial plan as we approach the half-way point in our fiscal year. While last fiscal year had the smallest operating gap since the launch of our financial plan, less than one percent on a $43 million budget, we had projected a planned increase in the FY23 deficit due to lingering effects of COVID and are mostly on track with that projection. Impacting this year is a significant improvement in net tuition due to larger than expected enrollment offset by some exposure in fundraising due to market conditions and staff transition. In addition, some increased pressure on compensation costs due to inflation is likely to continue to impact operations. It is, as always, important for us to stay on plan, especially as we approach the next fiscal year where we expect to be able to eliminate long-standing structural deficits and generate positive operating margins going forward.

Fundraising

As always, an important part of our story is fundraising. Following a transition in our external relations leadership and staff, we are now moving forward. At this time, we have raised $2.97 million, or 38 percent on our overall goal of $7.78 million for this fiscal year. While several large early gifts resulted in a faster pace earlier in the last fiscal year, we remain confident that fundraising efforts this year will continue to be strong. While we have focused on current use funding, endowment continues to be an important piece of the puzzle. In the last five years, Peabody’s endowment grew from $99 million at the start of FY17 to $141 million at the close of FY22, or 42 percent growth, including the addition of more than $18 million in new gifts. Including the $50 million from Michael Bloomberg – part of his extraordinary $1.8 billion gift made to Johns Hopkins University in 2018 – Peabody’s total endowed assets come to $190 million. This is an area we will continue to build and critical to ensuring strong financial underpinning for Peabody.

Admissions is upon us

The admissions cycle comes around quickly and this year is no exception. It seems that only very recently we were celebrating the arrival of our new class, the largest and most diverse enrollment in our history, with 760 students in this fall’s cohort. As I have shared on other occasions, we have seen a 24 percent increase in enrollment now over a five-year period, and that is despite the challenges we faced around COVID. Trends in started applications for Fall 2023 show meaningful growth in our application pool leading up to our December 1 deadline with Early Decision applications up nine percent over last year, giving an early indicator of our broader application pool for the next academic year. Coming out of two years of COVID, these numbers are notable and speak to the power of Peabody to attract students.

Faculty in the field

Of course, what primarily attracts students to Peabody is our outstanding faculty. It is, in the end, why students come – to have the chance to work with an extraordinary group of professionals and artists.

Several faculty members’ recent accomplishments immediately come to mind. The premiere of Kevin Puts’ new opera The Hours at the Metropolitan Opera is another milestone for this Pulitzer Prize winner and faculty member of Peabody’s distinguished Composition Department. The Hours, which includes George Peabody Medal winner Renée Fleming and Rosa Ponselle Distinguished Faculty Artist Denyce Graves in the cast, is having its premiere as we speak. I am especially proud of the fact that the Peabody Conservatory does not pay “lip service” to music of our time but rather showcases it, front and center. Kevin Puts is a great example of Peabody’s preeminence in composition, but it doesn’t stop there. Another Pulitzer Prize-winning faculty member, Du Yun, recently was awarded the highly prestigious Vilcek Prize in music for 2023, which honors immigrants in biomedical science and rotates prizes in humanities and the arts. Previous recipients include Yo-Yo Ma and Osvaldo Golijov. And also recently we hosted an outstanding interdisciplinary event on our campus, Staging Poppaea: Gender, Power and Violence, which included a film screening and symposium on faculty composer Michael Hersch’s latest opera, Poppaea, featuring faculty soprano Ah Young Hong in a 2021 Wien Modern performance. Outside of our Composition faculty, another notable example of faculty accomplishment, among many, is the release by Warner Classics of an 11 CD set of recordings by Professor of Guitar Manuel Barrueco along with his recent participation in a feature about the music of Albeniz and Spain on the PBS program, Now Hear This.

Tracking LAUNCHPad and the Breakthrough Curriculum

I very recently had an opportunity to review data on Peabody LAUNCHPad – our 21st century-focused strategic approach to career development for emerging artists, established in 2018. Since we know the field of performing arts continues to rapidly evolve, so too must our training for traditional opportunities in the field as well as preparation for flexible and adaptable career paths. When we “launched” LAUNCHPad, which now also encompasses Peabody’s unique Breakthrough Curriculum, I never would have guessed the trajectory we have seen. Now coming to fruition, we are seeing dramatic double-digit increases in engagement especially around students taking ownership in the shaping of their careers. In just the last year, we can note a 29 percent increase in career coaching appointments, 34 percent increase in career development event attendance, a 63 percent increase in Career Development Grant applications, 13 percent increase in LAUNCH Broadcast newsletter subscribers, and a 37 percent increase in user engagement for Creative Wire blog views.

Another highlight for LAUNCHPad is the release of Peabody’s first open educational resource, a free online textbook released in October. The Path to Funding: The Artist’s Guide to Building Your Audience, Generating Income, and Realizing Career Sustainability brings Peabody’s Pitching Your Creative Idea course from the Breakthrough Curriculum to life and to a wider audience with important and practical concepts and strategies around empowering artists to forge flexible new paths to career success.

And speaking of the Breakthrough Curriculum, we want to understand the long-term, longitudinal impact of Peabody’s highly innovative curriculum, which began in 2017. That is why we are partnering with the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project to conduct an extensive survey of all Conservatory alumni to provide a more complete picture of their professional activities and the impact of their Peabody education. This research will enable Peabody to benchmark progress against 300 institutions over time. This will be an ongoing initiative as we at Peabody continue to evolve as the environment evolves, to change and adapt while staying true to our core, and to ensure that we are preparing our students not for a world that was, but one that is and will be.

Summing up with exciting news about Peabody Jazz

We have all watched with delight and amazement the remarkable growth and trajectory of Peabody’s Jazz program over the last five years under the leadership of Sean Jones, culminating in the launch of our new graduate jazz fellowship in fall 2023, which will fund a small graduate ensemble emphasizing citizenship and social engagement as key components of high-level artistry today. Peabody Jazz has most recently been recognized nationally through an invitation to compete in the prestigious Jack Rudin Jazz Championship 2022 — Jazz at Lincoln Center this January. We’ll be there!

That’s all for now. I wish everyone in the Peabody community a successful conclusion to the fall semester, and a happy and healthy holiday season and New Year.