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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 25, 2006 | Vol. 36 No. 4
Celebration Begins at Peabody

America's first music academy turns 150 in 2007

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The Peabody Symphony Orchestra on Saturday will perform a rendition of Stravinsky's Greetings Prelude, aka Happy Birthday, at its season-opening concert.

It will be a happy birthday indeed, and quite a momentous one.

The upcoming Peabody concert season, which officially began last week with a performance by the Baltimore Consort, will help commemorate the institute's 150th anniversary and will feature 24 Peabody alumni and faculty artists from all musical genres. In effect, the concerts held this month kick off an 18-month-long celebration that will color every aspect of Peabody life, according to Jeffrey Sharkey, the institute's new director.

"We want to use this milestone occasion to raise the visibility of Peabody and bring in the community even more, to more or less build upon our grand reopening of a few years ago," Sharkey said in reference to Peabody's $26.8 million makeover that was completed in spring 2004. "We want even more people to come through our doors and use us as a resource."

In February 1857, philanthropist George Peabody founded the institute, the first academy of music to be established in America. Located in Baltimore's Mount Vernon Square, the institute began with the idea of bringing culture to the city's residents. Under the direction of well-known musicians, composers, conductors and Peabody alumni, the institute has grown from a local academy to an internationally renowned cultural center. Since 1977, the institute has operated as a division of Johns Hopkins, and each year Peabody stages more than 800 musical and dance performances in Baltimore and elsewhere.

In addition to the 150th tie-in to the current concert season, Peabody plans to host several anniversary-related events over the next 18 months, highlighting the artistic and academic breadth of the school. Alumni also plan to honor the event in a series of concerts, hoped to be 150 in total, held at various venues throughout the world in February.

Sharkey said he wants Peabody to use the coming year to develop a new audience, reconnect with alumni and show music's important role in society. The anniversary has been titled "A Season of Celebration: 150 Years of Music for the World."

"We view this anniversary celebration as a wonderful tie-in with the university's Knowledge for the World [fund-raising] campaign, hence the name," Sharkey said. "We want to do our part to further arts for this and the wider community."

The opening performance of the Peabody Symphony Orchestra season will be held at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30, in Friedberg Hall. The orchestra — featuring Jenni Bank, a mezzo-soprano and winner of the Sylvia L. Green Voice Competition — will perform works by Stravinsky, Hector Berlioz and Peabody alumnus Dominick Argento.

In the coming concert season, Peabody will present new and recent works by Peabody composers in addition to traditional works from the classical to jazz traditions. The season will also feature the return of many alumni artists, including members of the Monument Piano Trio, who will perform at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27, in Peabody's Friedberg Hall; and conductor Kate Tamarkin, for the Peabody Opera Theatre's production of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, Nov. 16 to 19. As part of the citywide Free Fall Baltimore program, the opening night of the opera will be free, with advanced reservations required.

Featured alumni in the spring include jazz trumpeter Dontae Winslow in a March 23 appearance with the Peabody Jazz Orchestra and cellist David Hardy as soloist for an April 28 performance with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra.

In conjunction with the anniversary celebration, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in January will present four consecutive performances featuring members of the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, performing works of Strauss and Stravinsky at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and Strathmore Music Center in Montgomery County. The new music director of the BSO, Marin Alsop, the first woman to head a major American orchestra, has been named distinguished visiting artist to the Peabody Conservatory, helping to develop talent in the school's highly selective conducting program.

Hajime "Teri" Murai, Peabody's director of orchestral activities and the Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Music Director, said that Peabody continues to attract the finest young musicians worldwide and that the new undergraduate class will only enhance the school's reputation. He adds that recent orchestra rehearsals have offered him a glimpse of the high-level performances to come.

"I think Peabody is still one of the best-kept secrets in terms of quality of performance for the cost of admission," Murai said. "There is not a better bargain in town. It's in everyone's interest to increase the diversity of our audience and to show everyone firsthand what we can offer."

For a list of all Peabody events, go to To contact the box office, call 410-659-8100, ext. 2, or e-mail


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