This academic year marked the launch of two major new programs at Peabody — the BFA Dance and the Music for New Media programs. Both programs, and the diverse array of new students they’ve drawn to campus, have quickly found their footing.
danah bella, chair of Conservatory Dance, worked for over a year at Peabody preparing for the program’s first class of 13 students, who came with very different experiences and training. A few had studied at per- forming arts high schools, one at a residential arts school, and others at competition studios or studios near their homes. Some in this inaugural class had never taken ballet, some had only taken ballet, and others came with musical theater backgrounds.
“I wouldn’t say that one type of student was more prepared than another,” bella says. “They were all ready to be here.”
Though the dancers have roommates in other programs, their artistic studies keep them together all day, with technique classes in the morning and afternoon and a rehearsal block from 4:30 to 10:00 pm, during which they rehearse for performances or work with guest visiting artists.
The first major artistic project that the dancers tackled was rehearsing for Bernstein’s MASS, performed on October 26. After the MASS performance, bella says, “We started to get our rhythm and found our way.”
The first departmental performance, on December 7, was directed by bella and featured all 13 dancers performing ballet, modern, and hip-hop works choreographed by faculty, students, and Yin Yue, Fall 2018 Visiting Artist.
Seven of the 13 shown pieces were choreographed by the Peabody dance students. While a four-course choreography series will start next year, at this point, the choreography work was all extracurricular, including the rehearsals required to learn their fellow dancers’ works.
“A lot of times students at this stage in their career don’t want to choreograph; they just want to dance,” bella explains. “I think their desire to choreograph is telling about their interest in dance, in general. They want to know and learn and experience everything about dance — not just performing. They’re not afraid to take risks.”
Music for New Media
Music for New Media also started its program with slightly more than a dozen students, twice the number anticipated. Thomas Dolby, head of the Music for New Media program, describes those students as “eclectic.”
“They’re free thinkers. Many of them have a conventional music background, as would be typical for a Peabody student,” he says “but several of them have also been avid video game fans since an early age or, in some cases, actually programmed video games.”
Dolby, who co-teaches with composer Chris Kennedy, says the students have to be familiar with the music and film software programs, and tools of the trade that are used by the film and media industries to integrate music. They’re also having to learn some of the fundamentals to write music to imagery, and, he says, “a conventional classical background in theory and sight reading goes a long way.”
A field trip to the JHU-MICA Film Centre helped connect New Media students with their counterparts in the film programs at Hopkins and the Maryland Institute College of Art. Dolby says, “They made some really great alliances, and some of my students will be contributing music to student films being made in Station North.” Such experience is crucial, since graduates of the program will need to collaborate with film directors or game designers.
“In our class, we’re very focused on career paths and how [students] will adjust to the workforce once they graduate,” Dolby says. “So, we’re in the process of setting up internships and work experience opportunities, both at media companies and at technology companies.”
— Margaret Bell