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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 27, 2006 | Vol. 36 No. 12
Chopin, Tai Chi and Cha-cha-cha

'There is an entire community of people, from young professionals to retirees, looking for things to enrich their lives,' says Preparatory Dean Carolee Stewart. 'Peabody is a place they should find such activities.'
Photo by Jay Van Rensselaer / HIPS

Never too late to learn: Peabody Preparatory expands adult offerings

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Strike the drum and get your dancing shoes on — the Peabody Preparatory will introduce this spring a new version of its adult-learning program that aims to build a community of lifelong learners who both appreciate and practice the creative arts.

The Adult and Continuing Education program, which was piloted this fall, will feature individual instruction, music and movement classes, choral and instrumental ensembles, workshops, lectures and special events.

The ACE program will replace the existing, century-old Adult Studies Division, which offered private lessons and intermittently hosted classes such as chamber music and singing.

Carolee Stewart, dean of the Preparatory since 2001, said that ACE constitutes a "rethinking" of adult learning at the Preparatory and offers to the community a more formalized series of classes.

Stewart said that there has been tremendous growth nationwide in the demand for such noncredit education. In particular, older adults have been enrolling in enrichment courses in large numbers — so large, in fact, that The New York Times reported in a Nov. 11 story that continuing education has become a $6 billion business in the United States.

"There is an entire community of people, from young professionals to retirees, looking for things to enrich their lives," Stewart said. "Peabody is a place they should find such activities."

This fall, the ACE program premiered its Ballroom Dancing course. For the spring 2007 semester, it will roll out Afro-Caribbean Drumming, Tai Chi Chuan and Community Choir, in addition to Ballroom Dancing.

The noncredit one-hour courses will meet once a week for a 16-week period. Classes, which cost $271 per semester, will be held on weekday evenings at the Peabody campus in Mount Vernon.

In addition to these new classes, the ACE program will, like its predecessor, offer private and group instruction in all orchestral instruments, piano, guitar, voice, theory, computer music, jazz and composition.

Stewart said that the Preparatory's mission is to provide courses designed to support, challenge, educate, inspire and enrich the community, and the new offerings came out of conversations with local residents to see what would appeal to them.

Founded in 1894, the Preparatory offers music and dance classes to people of all ages and ability, from infants to seniors. Every week, approximately 2,000 students attend classes offered by the Preparatory, which is considered the area's premier community school for the performing arts. Larry Williams, director of the ACE program and chair of the Preparatory's Brass and Winds Department, said the intention is for the Preparatory to attract a more diverse group of adults. Williams said that he hopes the new classes will have a broader appeal and bring different types of people to Peabody, not only seniors who never had the opportunity to pick up an instrument but 30-somethings who want to improve their skill set in a particular art form.

"We think that the arts are a tremendously important part of the community's health — for everyone from birth to seniors," Williams said. "The arts can play a very positive role, and it's important that [Peabody] offers this type of education to adults. I believe the community already understands that we offer music and dance instruction for kids, but not as many people realize that the Preparatory has this adult division. We hope this new program will bring us increased visibility in this area."

The Afro-Caribbean Drumming course will be led by Orlando Cotto and held at the nearby Ted's Music Shop. The goal of the class is for participants to learn to play any hand drum with confidence and flair.

Ballroom Dancing, Peabody's own version of Dancing with the Stars, is a group class for beginners led by Peabody Dance's artistic director, Carol Bartlett. The class will include instruction in waltz, fox trot, quickstep, samba, rumba, cha-cha-cha and jive.

Grandmaster Chieng-Liang Huang will lead the Tai Chi Chuan class, where students will use meditation and deep breathing as they move through a series of continuous exercises that resemble a slow-moving ballet. Originally a martial art, tai chi is today practiced more for its therapeutic benefits, including stress reduction, blood pressure control, body strengthening and improved balance and flexibility.

In the Community Chorus course, participants will perform works of the great choral repertoire. The mission of this choir, under the direction of Ernest Liotti, is to provide enrichment to the community through performances of music from diverse historical periods.

Williams said that the Preparatory plans to add to the list of ACE offerings next year based on interest and response to the spring curriculum. In the future, the ACE program will likely expand to Peabody campuses in Towson, Howard County and Annapolis, Williams said.

Next year, the program will also present a new series of master classes and one-day workshops on arts-related topics. Details will be announced at a later date.

Registration for spring semester opens on Friday, Dec. 1. For more information, go to or call 410-659-8100, ext. 1130.


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