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"Change can come, but it has to be nurtured"

Rheda Becker and Robert E. Meyerhoff create the Peabody Diversity Fund to increase the number of underrepresented minorities among the Institute's students, faculty, and staff
Posted February 16, 2017
Dean Fred Bronstein (front, far left) and Peabody's Baltimore Scholars welcomed Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker (front, second and third from right) for a lunch at the Institute last fall. Dean Fred Bronstein (front, far left) and Peabody's Baltimore Scholars welcomed Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker (front, second and third from right) for a lunch at the Institute last fall.

As an elementary school student in East Baltimore, Mateen Milan picked up an unusual hobby for kids in his neighborhood: the clarinet. Music might have remained just a hobby for Milan if not for an observant teacher, who encouraged Milan to enroll in the Tuned-In program, which provides full scholarships to the Peabody Preparatory for talented Baltimore City youth.

At the Prep, Milan blossomed. He switched from clarinet to bassoon and qualified to attend the Baltimore School for the Arts, then earned admission to the Peabody Conservatory as a Baltimore Scholar — a Hopkins-wide program that provides tuition support for high-achieving city public school graduates.

In his own words, Milan shares how his Peabody experience "helped my entire life"

Milan is one example of the impact Peabody can have on talented but socioeconomically disadvantaged youth in Baltimore. A $500,000 gift from philanthropists Rheda Becker and Robert E. Meyerhoff will create the Peabody Diversity Fund, which will be matched by Peabody through fundraising and enable more students to follow in Milan's footsteps. The fund also will address the equally important challenge of attracting underrepresented minorities to the Peabody faculty and staff, providing teacher role models for students and making the Institute accessible to new audiences through outreach programs. 

Make a gift to support the Peabody Diversity Fund today

Because Baltimore claims both a broadly diverse citizenry and a world-class orchestra, "the ingredients are here for Peabody to be a beacon."
Eric Owens

"Change can come, but it has to be nurtured — and we want to help Peabody in its efforts to become more diverse," says Becker, a Peabody National Advisory Council member who has been a narrator with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, among others, for more than 40 years. Meyerhoff has long supported higher education diversity initiatives, making the Peabody Diversity Fund a perfect match for the couple's philanthropic interests. 

Among Dean Fred Bronstein’s top priorities for the fund is creating additional full scholarships for the Tuned In program and to strengthen support for Peabody's Baltimore Scholars. Bronstein also plans to apply the resources to attract and retain faculty of color through a variety of means, such as Distinguished Visiting Artist appointments and residencies. 

"I love the fact that, in classical music, no matter what color you are, at the end of the day, you have to deliver — our art demands that," says Denyce Graves, an internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano who joined Peabody’s faculty in 2012 and now sits on its Diversity Task Force. "But first, you have to have the exposure, to be in the right place, at the right time, in front of the right people. Often, you need help to make the door to that room open — and that’s what the Peabody Diversity Fund can do."

Becker and Meyerhoff hope the fund makes an impact well beyond Peabody, by demonstrating a way to address the dearth of diversity in the pipeline of professional classical musicians. According to the League of American Orchestras, only four percent of musicians in such ensembles are black or Latino. Eric Owens — a renowned bass-baritone opera singer and a current Peabody Distinguished Visiting artist this term — has experienced that statistic firsthand. He estimates the number of well-known black opera singers is even smaller today than it was 30 years ago, when he began his career. But he believes Peabody is positioned well to help solve the problem.

"Baltimore is an incredibly diverse city. You can reach out into your own back yard and engage people from just about every ethnic origin, race, and socioeconomic background," Owens says. "You also have one of the best orchestras in the world in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and many members serve as faculty at Peabody. So the ingredients are here for Peabody to be a beacon."

To learn more about the Peabody Diversity Fund or to make a gift, please contact Jessica Lunken, associate dean for development.