About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 26, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 12
Access For All to Music's Powers

At one of the more than 150 free concerts performed by Peabody's Creative Access, founder Matt Carvin plays his guitar and talks about the music.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Peabody students take their talents to venues helping those in need

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Music can break down barriers, whether they're emotional or physical. It just needs to be heard.

Since 2004, Peabody's Creative Access has brought the world of music to audiences in the Baltimore area that otherwise might not be exposed to it. Each year, roughly 200 Peabody student instrumentalists and vocalists perform more than 150 free concerts in venues such as the Maryland School for the Blind, Ronald McDonald House, Veterans Hospital and many other nonprofit organizations aimed at providing healing, care and education to those in need.

The students perform a variety of musical styles, from Mozart chamber music to "If I Had a Hammer," and engage audiences with stories about the artists and works.

Matt Carvin formed the group in 2003, his first year at Peabody. Carvin, who was pursuing a master's degree in guitar performance, felt that Peabody should have a musical outreach program and organized a group of students to play concerts at several nearby charities.

"I have always felt that the role of an artist is more than simply as a skilled performer but as an advocate and educator as well," said Carvin, the group's director.

The initial concerts were a huge success, and the Creative Access was born. The nonprofit student group currently partners with more than 75 local organizations.

The outreach initiative is made up of both graduate and undergraduate students, talented soloists and ensemble musicians, at the Peabody Conservatory. Its mission is to provide quality music and engaging fellowship to its target audiences, in an attempt to better their lives and that of their community.

A typical concert will feature three or four Peabody students who perform a 45-minute show followed by a talk.

Carvin said that the performances can be therapeutic and enriching for the audiences, and beneficial for the students, too.

"It gets us to communicate more," he said. "Increasingly, there's been an emphasis to train musicians to talk more about their music and engage with the audience, and communities. We're not giving [the audience] instructions. Rather we'll talk about the composer, and then they'll ask questions about the music."

He estimates that nearly 30 percent of the Peabody students have participated in the Creative Access at some point, with a current core group of 70 students who perform monthly.

One person who has heard the group in action is Jim Hillman, manager of resource development for Gallagher Services, an agency that works with people with developmental disabilities. "Music is the universal language and it transcends all levels of ability," he said. "We'll have 20 to 40 folks come out for one of the evening concerts that the Peabody students perform. Everyone is rapt and attentive, and very engaged. We usually get together for one big sing-along at the end of the performance. It's a good time."

Carvin said that the group is always looking for volunteers and that musicians of all styles and skill levels are welcome. To volunteer or for more information, go to


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |