The Johns Hopkins University has named Fred Bronstein as dean of the Peabody Institute, the nation’s oldest music conservatory.
Bronstein, 57, currently serves as president and CEO of the St. Louis Symphony and is credited with boosting attendance, revenue and donations there. He will join Peabody in June, Hopkins officials announced Monday.
Although this position will be Bronstein’s first in higher education, he’s not short on teaching experience. He described the switch from administrative roles as “a natural progression.”
His career began at the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a training ground for the professional Chicago Symphony. He said he also emphasized educational outreach as president/CEO first of the Omaha Symphony and later of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Working with professional orchestras opened his eyes to the “radical change” facing the music business, especially in terms of audience engagement, Bronstein said, adding that aspiring musicians must learn to develop their audience in the same way salesmen must develop their market.
“When I think about training young musicians, they have to be great players, but they also have to be independent entities — entrepreneurial, business-savvy, good communicators,” Bronstein said. “It’s a very different world than it was 100 years, 150 years ago, even 50 years ago. So how you educate musicians also has to change, and being part of that is exciting.”
Bronstein learned those skills firsthand as a pianist for Aequalis, a chamber ensemble he co-founded and that toured nationally for eight years.
Bronstein will be Peabody’s 14th leader, succeeding Jeffrey Sharkey, who announced in May he would step down after seven years as Peabody’s head. In October, Sharkey said he would become principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland when his replacement is named.
Sharkey — and all of Peabody’s past leaders — held the title of director, but the position will now be that of dean. Hopkins officials said they made the change so that Peabody’s leadership structure would be consistent with the university’s eight other academic divisions.
Founded in 1857 and a part of Hopkins since 1977, Peabody Conservatory enrolls about 650 undergraduate and graduate students who study classical instruments, opera, music composition, recording arts and sciences, music education, conducting and other disciplines.
Meanwhile, the Peabody Preparatory offers community music and dance classes for nearly 2,000 adults and children. Bronstein said he hopes to form even more external ties, adding that he sees Peabody as a “cultural leader in the whole mid-Atlantic region.”
“Community engagement is a wonderful way to expand your palate, reach a broader audience and do things in a richer way than you could on your own,” Bronstein said, citing the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Maryland Institute College of Art as hopeful targets for collaboration. “Baltimore is rich with great institutions, and I see Peabody reaching out to be part of that collective.”
Bronstein also understands the practical importance of community involvement — good relationships are crucial to successful fundraising, he said, as well as meaningful audience-building.
When Bronstein arrived at the St. Louis Symphony in 2008, he found a structural deficit in excess of $3 million, noteworthy declines in attendance and a corresponding drop in revenue. He quickly launched “Building our Business,” an aggressive financial plan to grow operating revenue, launched targeted outreach strategies and unveiled new, diversified programs to bring in new audiences.
And he got results. In the five years since Bronstein came on board, ticket revenue has increased by 36 percent, donations by 26 percent and attendance by 17 percent. The structural deficit has shrunk to its lowest level since 2005.
Fundraising experience will be key at Peabody, which launched a fundraising campaign in January 2010 with a goal of $75 million. So far, the institute has raised about $29 million; its endowment stands at $101 million, according to a spokeswoman.
Personal: Married to Elizabeth Bronstein; one son, Max, age 5
Education: Bachelor of Music, Boston University, 1978; Master of Music, Manhattan School of Music, 1982; Doctor of Musical Arts, State University of New York – Stony Brook, 1987
Background: President/CEO, St. Louis Symphony, 2008-June 2014; President/CEO, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, 2002-2008; President/CEO, Omaha Symphony, 1998-2002 Executive director, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, 1996-1998; Co-founder and pianist, Aequalis, a chamber ensemble.