Internationally renowned violinist and Peabody Preparatory alumna Hilary Hahn returned to Peabody as this year’s commencement speaker on May 23 in Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall. Peabody Conservatory’s 135th graduation exercises conferred one Performer’s Certificate, 86 Bachelor of Music degrees, 106 Master of Music degrees, 11 Master of Arts degrees, 22 Graduate Performance Diplomas, two Artist Diplomas, and 9 Doctor of Musical Arts degrees.
Piano faculty member Alexander Shtarkman, who has been on the Conservatory faculty since 2002, was awarded the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award.
In accepting the award, Shtarkman said he feels fortunate to be working at Peabody and utterly privileged to be a part of its faculty. He continued to speak of his students: “I am rewarded with my all my dear, wonderful, talented, motivated, curious, tirelessly-working students. We learn together and from each other. And I’m grateful to you for all the music we’ve studied, all the discoveries we’ve made, all the ideas we’ve conceived.” He said his teachers taught him everything: “The fundamentals of our profession and secrets of our craft but more importantly they taught me that what we do is larger than a profession or a craft. It is larger than life.”
Between speeches were performances by Peabody graduates and students including Marquee Brass – DMA candidate Brandon Cave, trumpet; David Deshler (MM ’17, Trumpet); Samuel James Bessen (MM ’17, Horn); Ricson Poonin (MM ’16, GPD ’17, Trombone); and Michael James Minor (MM ’17, Tuba) – performing both Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance and Robert Martin’s Mercia Brass Quintet No. 7, “Arrival of the King.” Seungmin Oh (AD ’17, Flute) and Hui-Chuan Chen (MM ’06, DMA ’14, Piano) performed Benjamin Godard’s “Valse” from Suite De Trois Morceaux. Sejoon Park (AD ’17, Piano) played Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 10 in E major, S. 244/10.
In his speech, Peabody Dean Fred Bronstein updated the audience on the strides made under the Breakthrough Plan in the areas of community engagement, Music and Medicine, new programs, and diversity. Dean Bronstein said: “We build on our tradition of excellence but understand that we must be in and of the community; the university community, the civic life of Baltimore, and the international community. We have a major role to play, and with all its accomplishments of the last 160 years, I am sure that Peabody’s best days are ahead, and yours as graduates and the future of our art form are as well.”
Grammy award winning violinist Hilary Hahn spoke about her experiences as a young student at the Peabody Preparatory. She said when she comes back to Peabody, “in my mind, I’m still an 8-year-old Prep kid,” and recalled her strongest memory of a non-violin performance – that of her last ballet performance on the Friedberg Hall stage. Having decided that her speech should be about what she wished she’d learned before she graduated, she went on to say, “Music is and should be very much about serving others. We do our best for the composer, for the audience, for education. We donate our time, share our love for our art, and we try to create things of beauty for other people. This, in turn, often gives us happiness.”
She concluded her speech with: “Finally, if you will allow me to make one little request of every one of you sitting here today, it is to walk out into that world and show people what a strong, kind, global citizen can look like. Think about it, you are absolutely the image of now and (classic graduation line and it’s true) you are the image of the future.”
The entire commencement ceremony can be found at youtube.com/peabodyinstitute.