Dworkin: “Just do something.” Reply

Aaron Dworkin, Dean, School of Music Theatre & Dance.  July 28,

Photo credit: Dwight Cendrowski

In the first Dean’s Symposium of the 2016-17 year, Aaron Dworkin encouraged Peabody students to take risks, to focus intensely on what they want to achieve, and, above all, to act intentionally in the interest of social change.

In a candid and optimistic conversation Monday with Peabody Dean Fred Bronstein, the 2005 MacArthur fellow and dean of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance asked the audience to consider the role that they each, individually, can play in changing society, saying “If we see things that aren’t taking place, is there something we can do?”

Dean Dworkin speaks from his own experience, having founded the Sphinx Organization to address the lack of diversity in classical music while still completing his undergraduate studies. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, Sphinx programs now reach more than 100,000 students annually. The community of professional musicians of color that has grown among Sphinx participants and alumni is among its successes, Dworkin noted.

“There is a great deal more work that needs to take place,” he added, pointing out that less than one percent of works performed by U.S. orchestras are by composers of any color. The biggest obstacle to change? Simply, inaction.

Calling himself an eternal optimist, he offered praise for programs like Peabody’s Tuned In and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids, emphasizing that institutional commitment of time and resources is a fundamental first step to developing initiatives that can make a difference.

The Dean’s Symposium series at Peabody was launched in 2014 when Dean Bronstein convened leading musicians and arts administrators in a program titled “What’s Next for Classical Music?” Now an annual series examining the evolving landscape for 21st century musicians and the challenges and opportunities facing them, the Dean’s Symposiums have placed Peabody at the center of the national conversation about the future of music.

Upcoming guests in the Dean’s Symposium series include Mozart in the Jungle author Blair Tindall on November 28, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross on February 6, and theater and opera director Peter Sellars on April 17.

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