Peabody's reach

Singapore: Creating a world-class conservatory to train musicians in Southeast Asia.

November 29, 2001

BALTIMORE'S role as a musical center is enhanced when the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University is called in by a major Asian university to help launch a conservatory of music.

In a form of procreation spreading in the academic world, the Peabody will marry up with the National University of Singapore to give birth to the Singapore Conservatory of Music.

The gestation period is two or three years, when the first 30 students are expected. Steven G. Baxter, Peabody's dean, will become director of the new school in January to establish faculty, curricula and recruitment.

Arts and arts education form a key part of the strategy of the city-state of some 3 million people, surrounded by enormous countries, hitherto renowned for its commerce and efficiency. "Singapore's vision is to be a Renaissance city -- a global city for the arts," according to Niam Chiang Meng, a high cultural official.

The talent for music in the Western tradition nurtured in Asian countries is formidably shown by performers on the world's concert stages and the proportion of the student body from Asia at the Peabody (about one-third) and peer institutions.

For Singapore to want some of them trained there, with more attention to the Asian musical tradition than might be found in America or Europe, is natural.

While the Peabody is in a sense going into competition with itself, the result will expand demand of qualified students for places worldwide.

The Johns Hopkins University already has a relationship with the National University of Singapore in medicine. Similar associations are found elsewhere in business and engineering. Now, music.

The marriage is for six years, to start.

The Peabody will grow stronger from compensation. The two institutions expect exchange and cooperative programs to attract students and faculty to each.

This is globalization at its best.

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