Author Alex Ross, winner of a 2008 MacArthur Fellowship and longtime music critic for The New Yorker, will address the graduates and receive the George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America during the Peabody Conservatory’s 2020 Commencement ceremony, which will be held online on Wednesday, May 20.
Ross’s 2007 book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, won a National Book Critics Circle award and the Guardian First Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He followed that with an essay collection titled Listen to This, which won an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. His third book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, describing the composer’s vast cultural impact, will be published in September. Ross has been the music critic of The New Yorker since 1996. He writes about classical music and has also contributed essays on literature, film, history, the visual arts, and ecology. In 2008, Ross was named a MacArthur Fellow; he has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and honorary doctorates from the New England Conservatory, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Curtis Institute.
“Alex is without question one of the most thoughtful writers on arts and culture today,” noted Peabody Dean Fred Bronstein. “As a keen observer of history, society, and contemporary trends, he offers insights about the influential power of the arts that are important for our students – indeed our world – to hear, perhaps now more than ever.” At a Peabody Dean’s Symposium in February of 2017, Ross spoke passionately about the future of classical music, the writing process, and the role of the artist in society, among other topics.
In honor of his impact as a chronicler of our art and times, Ross will also be awarded this year’s George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America. The highest honor bestowed by the Peabody Institute, the George Peabody Medal has been presented since 1980. Previous Peabody Medal winners have included Leon Fleisher, Yo-Yo Ma, Jessye Norman, Tori Amos, Kim Kashkashian, Libby Larsen, Isaac Stern, André Watts, and Oscar Peterson.
This year marks the Peabody Conservatory’s 138th graduation exercises, and the first to be held virtually. 72 Bachelor of Music degrees, 95 Master of Music degrees, eight Master of Arts degrees, 32 Graduate Performance Diplomas, two Artist Diplomas, and 16 Doctor of Musical Arts degrees are scheduled to be conferred. Instructions to join the virtual Commencement ceremony, which begins at 10:00 am on Wednesday, May 20, will be posted soon to peabody.jhu.edu/commencement.