By Michael Blumfield
As the concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony, David Halen frequently arrived at work early in preparation for an upcoming performance. But no matter when he arrived each evening–7:30, 7:15, 7:00–one guy was always there before him: Fred Bronstein.
“For an administrator, that’s very unusual,” Halen says. “But it’s typical of him. That kind of focus and drive pervades everything he does.”
Before his appointment as dean of the Peabody Institute, Bronstein was president and CEO of the St. Louis Symphony. During his six years in St. Louis, he reversed a trend of declining revenue with new programming and marketing strategies that added new audiences and enhanced donor support. He achieved similar results in his previous six years as the president and CEO of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Halen says that part of the reason for Bronstein’s success was in getting the right people in the right positions. “He did an extraordinarily professional job in managing the affairs of the St. Louis Symphony. He hired a very strong staff, building on the individual strengths of the people, and filling in when a need arose. He’d delegate and let them do their jobs.”
Bronstein, a pianist, holds a master of music degree from the Manhattan School of Music and a doctor of musical arts degree from the State University of New York, Stony Brook, as well as a bachelor of music degree from Boston University. He’s been deeply involved in education–both of musicians and the community at large–and sees the new position as an opportunity to help prepare young musicians to contribute to the field.
“This is something that I have always been keenly interested in,” Bronstein says. “I have always wanted to run a major conservatory, and Peabody is one of the premier institutions.”
Its connection to Johns Hopkins provides avenues for interdisciplinary collaboration that Bronstein is eager to explore. He envisions programming that can connect Peabody with not just the university’s other arts programs but its medical and business schools as well.
The need to extend beyond the institute’s walls is something the president and CEO of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Paul Meecham, says is critical to all musical organizations these days.
“The skills that musicians require going into the workplace today are evolving,” Meecham says. “There will always be orchestras and there will always be a need for great musicians. But even within orchestras, the skills required are expanding. We as an institution focus more on our involvement with the community. We have to demonstrate our relevance.”
Meecham believes Bronstein is well prepared for the challenge. “He’s very dynamic, he’ll be well liked by the staff and the faculty because he’s a serious musician himself,” he says. “He’s been successful in fundraising efforts. He brings a lot of skills that I think will play well in Peabody.”
Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, has known Bronstein since Bronsteinís time as a fellow in the leagueís orchestra management program. Recently, Bronstein has been an adviser to the program, reviewing applicants and helping the organization find and shape emerging talents. “Fred wonít be a stranger to productive relationships with young musicians,” he says. “He has great sensitivity to young musicians and the needs and opportunities that they’ll experience in the early parts of their careers.”
Rosen also praises Bronstein for his collaboration with the St. Louis Symphony’s music director, David Robinson. With Bronstein’s support, the orchestra has managed to be both financially successful and musically innovative, Rosen says.
If Tony Woodcock’s experience is any guide, Bronstein is about to embark on an even more innovative path. Like Bronstein, Woodcock was the president of an orchestra (Minnesota Orchestra) before taking on his current job as president of the New England Conservatory in Boston.
“Managing people, dealing with a board, raising money, balancing budgetsﬂitís all the sameâ in orchestras and conservatories, Woodcock says. ´What is different in a school environment is how extraordinarily possible everything is. I think of it as unfettered creativity. If you have an idea on Monday, it will be done by Wednesday.”
Orchestras by definition need to be very structured, with the musicians working under the rules of their contracts. “In a school, the objectives are completely different,â says Woodcock. “They’re about discovery, creativity, and testing the envelope.”
For his part, Bronstein says he doesnít plan to stay sequestered in the dean’s office. His style is to be out and about, meeting frequently with students, faculty, and administrators.
“I want people to consider me very accessibleﬂto give me feedback on things,” Bronstein says. “I’m very transparent in that way. I may not always agree with something but Iím going to learn from it. That kind of dialogue and discourse is something that an educational institution like Peabody ought to foster.”