Thanks to an innovative program called Faculty Studio Funds, donors now have a way to directly support the work of Peabody faculty and their students. These discretionary funds allow faculty members to attract promising students by helping them with the many expenses that are part of their education. In some cases faculty are successful in wooing talented students who are being sought after by comparable music schools. The availability of these additional funds sweetens any tuition assistance that Peabody might make, giving Peabody a competitive edge.
In Peabody’s studio system, the relationship that develops between teacher and student is very strong, and the mentor influence is quite profound, says Patrick O’Neall, Peabody’s director of major gifts. It is not unusual for faculty members to meet the families of their students, for example. “This fund-raising strategy helps support the number one goal of our faculty, which is getting the top students to their studio,” says O’Neall.
“Sometimes students are just not able to cope with paying for all the extras that go into a well-prepared career training,” says Phyllis Bryn-Julson, chair of the Voice Department at Peabody. Sheet music, recording devices, audition fees and travel costs, and performance attire are just a few of the incidentals students might not anticipate having to cover.
Some students find it nearly impossible to travel to auditions, says Bryn-Julson. “The look of relief on their faces when I tell them I can pay for it because of the generosity of a donor is all the evidence I need to know that these donors have made a huge difference in one moment for a gifted talent,” she says.
In order to secure Studio Fund donations, faculty members are collaborating with Peabody’s development staff to involve and inform donors more than they had in the past, according to O’Neall. “Traditionally, faculty at the Conservatory have not been asked to spend time with our donors,” says O’Neall. But these top artists—who include guitarist Manuel Barrueco, pianist Leon Fleisher, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, and percussionist Robert Van Sice—have been successful in attracting donations as they invite prospective donors to become more involved with their work, and especially, with their teaching. Donors are thrilled to have that kind of interaction with faculty, he says.
Ruby P. Hearn, who supports the Studio Fund of opera singer Graves, has also made gifts to Peabody’s outreach programs. She decided to contribute to this specific fund after attending a master class that Graves taught. “She is an amazing teacher,” says Hearn. “She was able to get these young people to make incredible sounds, and it was clear from the expressions on their faces that they had no idea these sounds were possible.”
Hearn said she was very excited when Graves, an internationally acclaimed soloist, recently joined the Peabody faculty. “Having a diverse faculty is so important in attracting a diverse student body,” she says.
“Without this generous grant from an alumnus and his family, four of our present students would not be able to attend Peabody,” says Van Sice, of the percussion faculty. “All of them are gift- ed young people with a hunger to learn, but who happen to come from families who would not be able to afford the full cost of a Peabody education.
“I often think about what the Pea- body Percussion Department would be without the fabulous contributions of these young students,” he says, “and it makes me realize that these funds not only help the four direct recipients of the grant but the wider family of my class, as we all learn so much from each other every day of the musical journey.”
— Christine Stutz