Fred Bronstein, president of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, will become the new head of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University on June 1. His title will be dean, rather than the previous, longtime designation of director, in keeping with JHU's practice with its other academic divisions.
"For quite some time, I was thinking I would eventually make this kind of a move," Bronstein said in a phone interview from St. Louis. "This seemed like the optimal opportunity. I've known of Peabody my whole career. It has a wonderful brand and a long, incredible history."
Bronstein succeeds Jeffrey Sharkey, who announced last May that he would be stepping down and has since been named principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
The Boston-born Bronstein, 57, is much-admired in the music industry. Since starting his St. Louis tenure in 2008, he has been credited with greatly improving that orchestra's finances and artistic profile. His career has also included stints as president of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Omaha Symphony.
"He's terrific, a very dynamic manager in the industry," said Baltimore Symphony Orchestra president and CEO Paul Meecham. "He looks at a challenge and figures out the best way to solve it. And he's well-regarded by the musicians in orchestra, which, in our business, is no small thing."
The search committee, which included Peabody faculty and student representation, was chaired by JHU provost Robert C. Lieberman, who said that "we looked at hundreds of names initially and looked seriously at more than a dozen candidates."
The committee recommended four finalists to JHU president Ronald J. Daniels. Although those finalists were not ranked in order of committee preference, Lieberman said that "it became increasingly evident that Fred was just a phenomenal choice. There was an enormous amount of enthusiasm for his candidacy from the beginning," Lieberman said.
One of those who was impressed by Bronstein early in the search process was cellist and Peabody faculty member Michael Kannen, director of chamber music at the conservatory.
"In speaking to people in the St. Louis Symphony, I was struck by the fact that management, board and musicians were all talking together and growing in the same direction," Kannen said. "That Fred could get all those people on board in an orchestra seems very, very promising for Peabody, where there are a lot of people with very strong opinions."
Noting that another major conservatory, the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., was also searching for a new director at the same time, Kannen said that "the field doing this kind of work is small, so I think we really scored here to be able to get someone with such a strong track record."
Bronstein was last on the Peabody campus in Mount Vernon about 20 years ago, he said. He traveled only to the Hopkins Homewood campus during the confidential search process, a practice that is "fairly standard for a senior leadership search," Lieberman said. Brontstein expects to visit Peabody within the next few weeks.
A Boston University alum, Bronstein has 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.
"He's a really good pianist," Meecham said. "He always puts the music first. Marin [Alsop, BSO music director] thinks highly of him, too. We're looking forward to deepening our connection with Peabody."
Bronstein, who has been involved with educational projects at the St. Louis Symphony and the other orchestras he has run, said that he wants to focus not just on "training great musicians" at Peabody.
"The institution needs to train highly educated and enlightened musicians who are entrepreneurial and business-savvy, too," he said. "That goes part and parcel with what will be required in this rapidly changing environment."
Peabody, the country's first music conservatory (founded in 1857), became part of Hopkins in 1977.
"To be part of this incredible university gives Peabody -- and Hopkins -- a competitive edge," Bronstein said. "I'm not sure that has been fully realized. And I think being involved in the community, being a cultural leader, is important for the institution as well."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun