Growing up, Jill McGovern played the violin from age 5 through high school, when she reached the first chair of the second violin section in her school orchestra, the pinnacle of her violin career. Looking back on her time as a young musician, McGovern never thought she would be in the position she is in today: chairing the board for the Peabody Institute under the visionary leadership of Dean Fred Bronstein.
McGovern is enthusiastic about Dean Bronstein’s vision of preparing young musicians to have successful careers in today’s world, which, for many of them, may not include the historically traditional career goal of obtaining an orchestral position. As such, Peabody is offering new courses and degree programs, such as a Bachelor of Music degree called Music for New Media. Launched in 2018, this program prepares students to compose and produce music for film, television, virtual reality, computer games, and other types of media — positions that are in high demand today.
“Peabody is trying to prepare students to use their talents in other ways and to think about other opportunities,” says McGovern, who has been on the Peabody Institute Advisory Board since 2012. “It’s a privilege to be associated with Fred, who is leading an organization that’s being transformed before our very eyes. That’s what I find exciting about Peabody, and I want to be an advocate this year as I chair the board.”
Bronstein adds, “Jill is the ideal, wonderful volunteer — level-headed, wise and generous. I’m personally grateful to have her leading the Advisory Board this year.”
McGovern — who has worked for Johns Hopkins University in the past, first as an American Council on Education Fellow in 1981, then as a senior executive assistant to the president — is also honored to be chair of the board because of her late husband, Steven Muller, who was president of the Johns Hopkins University from 1972 to 1990. (McGovern and Muller were married from 2000 to 2013.) In 1977, it was Muller — who played the violin as a child in Hamburg, Germany, and sang with an a cappella group as a young man in Los Angeles — who created the university’s affiliation with the Peabody Institute, then a highly regarded independent conservatory that was struggling financially. This was the beginning of Peabody becoming a thriving academic division within Johns Hopkins.
“Of the many things that Steve accomplished while he was president of Hopkins, I think one of the most meaningful to him was making possible that affiliation between Peabody and the university,” says McGovern, who was CEO of The Marrow Foundation from 1993 to 2007.
McGovern has been involved with other projects at Peabody through the Jill E. McGovern and Steven Muller Fund. In 2013, she launched an annual Peabody Symphony Orchestra memorial concert as a way to pay tribute to Muller and preserve his legacy. The seventh Steven Muller Memorial Concert — an event that will one day be fully endowed — will be held on February 7, 2020.
McGovern — along with the entire advisory board — is also committed to providing scholarships for Peabody students. For the last three years, she has supported Tavifa Cojocari, a senior violin performance major. “It’s been wonderful to watch the development of a talented young person like this,” says McGovern, who has attended Cojocari’s recitals and gotten to know her family through the years. “Peabody is such a remarkable part of Hopkins, and it’s a pleasure to continue to be associated with the Hopkins community.”
— Jennifer Walker