Peabody names new director

Conservatory's endowment, scholarship fund top Sharkey's priority list

May 31, 2006|By TIM SMITH | TIM SMITH,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Jeffrey Sharkey, the No. 2 administrator at the Cleveland Institute of Music, has been named to the No. 1 post at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.

The Delaware-born Sharkey will start work as Peabody director Oct. 1, succeeding Robert Sirota.

Sirota resigned last June to become president of the Manhattan School of Music, where Sharkey earned his undergraduate degree.

"Bob Sirota left the school in really good shape," Mark Katz, a Peabody faculty member who served on the search committee for a new director, said yesterday. "It's ready to take off. [Sharkey] has a lot of great ideas about what Peabody can do."

Frank Caputo, assistant to the president at the Cleveland Institute, called Sharkey's hiring at Peabody "a big win for Baltimore."

As dean of the Cleveland school, Sharkey "has been very successful and very much respected as an administrator," Caputo said. "He was always looked upon as even-handed by faculty and students. And he's a visionary."

Peabody Institute, the oldest music conservatory in the country, was founded in 1857 and has been operated as a division of Johns Hopkins since 1977.

Sharkey, 41, has graduate degrees from Yale University and Cambridge University in composition and philosophy, respectively.

Before joining the Cleveland Institute, he held faculty and/or administrative posts for 13 years at pre-college level schools in England. Sharkey is also a composer and a pianist.

"All cultural institutions must emphasize the importance and vitality of the art of music," Sharkey said yesterday from England, where he was visiting in-laws with his wife, cellist Alison Wells, who will join the Peabody faculty.

"And all conservatory graduates need to be what I call passionate advocates for the art of music," Sharkey said, "and the important role music plays in what it means to be human."

Among the new director's priorities will be increasing the conservatory's endowment and scholarship funding.

"The landscape has changed for recruiting students, and competition is more intense," Sharkey said. "The admissions office needs to take a proactive role and be seen at college fairs."

Sharkey established exchange programs between the Cleveland Institute and conservatories in Europe, for students and faculty. "The same kind of thing could do wonders for Peabody," he said.

Peabody has a presence in Asia, thanks to a collaboration with the Singapore Conservatory of Music, a project Sharkey calls "tremendously exciting. I expect to make a fairly early trip out there," he said. "I want to see how that can be enhanced."

Sharkey is also thinking about getting Peabody into China, where Hopkins has a presence.

At the Cleveland Institute, Sharkey sought "to broaden the scope of conservatory education, which some people have characterized as myopic and single-minded," Caputo said. "He brought a course of world music to the school."

Sharkey is expected to apply the same thinking to Peabody.

"The music profession and its funding are changing," he said, "so students need to graduate with additional skills. They need to be familiar with varieties of music."

Such thinking is precisely what attracted members of the search committee to Sharkey.

"I knew he would be the one to lead our vision forward," said Phyllis Bryn-Julson, a faculty member who served on the committee. "He brought ideas to the table and he has a worldwide knowledge. But he doesn't flaunt himself. I think this is going to be a good marriage."

Katz agrees. "We had some very good candidates, and that speaks well for Peabody, but Jeff Sharkey was on the top," Katz said.

"He's very smart, he's very personable, he's a fine musician, and he's a great listener. We know that he is going to do great things, but he could even surpass our expectations. He has energy and vision to burn."

tim.smith@baltsun.com

JEFFREY SHARKEY

Born: Delaware

Age: 41

Education: Manhattan School of Music, Yale University, Cambridge University

Currently: Dean of Cleveland Institute of Music

Previously: Director of music at Purcell School, London; head of composition and academic music at Wells Cathedral School, Somerset, England

Additionally: Pianist and composer

Family: Married to cellist Alison Wells; three children

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