To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Fret Fest, the Peabody Preparatory Guitar Department commissioned Celestial Navigation, a three-movement work by composer and alum Ronald Pearl. Preparatory guitar students prepared their parts and performed alongside the Peabody Conservatory graduate and undergraduate studio of Guitar Department Chair Julian Gray as well as students from the Tuscarora High School Artist Ensemble. The premiere was conducted by Julian Gray, and occurred on March 10, 2019 at Fret Fest.
Over the course of 6 months students ages 11–17 enrolled in the guitar ensemble program worked with composer Dr. Leo Welch to learn about the composition process, after which he then incorporated ideas produced by them into “Downriver”, a new work for guitar ensemble. Students then premiered the work as a virtual ensemble for the 12th annual Peabody Fret Festival.
This program began as a series of 4 enrichment classes held in the 2021 spring semester over Zoom between the Eastman Community Music School (ECMS) and the Peabody Preparatory guitar departments, created by chair of the Peabody Prep guitar program, Zoë Johnstone Stewart and senior guitar instructor at ECMS Dr. Lynn McGrath. The goal is create a space for young guitarists in 3rd – 5th grade in both programs to meet each other, practice performing, gain musical inspiration from peers, and learn from other teachers in a fun environment. Students worked on technique exercises, giving musical feedback to their peers and performance skills.
A joint program with the Voice Performance Academy. In a semi-staged production of the opera on May 15, 2022 the Guitar Performance Academy performed arrangements of the instrumental ritornellos by Preparatory Guitar Department Chair Zoë Johnstone Stewart and music director Andrew Stewart. Students had the opportunity to learn about baroque ornamentation and performance practice from specialists as well as be part of a larger production of the opera with their peers in the Vocal Performance Academy.