Peabody Institute

Founded in 1857 in the heart of Baltimore's historic Mount Vernon neighborhood, the Peabody Institute has long been one of the city's cultural institutions. The Institute includes the Peabody Conservatory of Music and the Peabody Preparatory School. Both schools belong to Johns Hopkins University.

The Institute's Peabody Conservatory is highly regarded in the world of music, often mentioned in the same breath as the prestigious Juilliard School in New York, and boasts a long line of distinguished students, including composer Leonard Bernstein, pianist Andre Watts and singer Tori Amos.

One of the highlights of the campus is the George Peabody Library. It is an architectural gem with six levels trimmed in delicate ironwork, capped off by a glorious skylight. Its collection is also known as one of the world's most unique. When the library's curators began collecting during the Civil War, they set out to gather the finest literary works from libraries around the globe. The result is a varied collection of 100,000 volumes, including books from the French Revolution, Colonial pamphlet literature from Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll and dictionaries and encyclopedias representing every major language in the world.

Peabody also has an impressive art collection. Featuring works by Mary Cassatt and Winslow Homer, among others, it is frequently on display at venues such as the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution.

The Conservatory is home to approximately 125 faculty members and approximately 600 degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate music students, most of whom attend the school full time.

The Preparatory School, on the other hand, is geared toward part-time, private lessons in dance and music for those not necessarily seeking a degree. It also features a continuing studies program for adults.

All of the courses of study offered at both schools are geared toward classical music training, rather than popular music or musical theater.

The music major is an extremely grueling, intensely focused educational experience, but Peabody students also have the benefit of access to all the Johns Hopkins University amenities, including classes in a variety of disciplines.

The Conservatory has made the liberal arts philosophy an integral part of its mission, encouraging students to explore other disciplines. To facilitate such cross-disciplinary studies, the school runs shuttle buses hourly from its campus in Mount Vernon to the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences -- Hopkins' school of the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences -- in Charles Village. Peabody students can take courses at Krieger in topics ranging from anthropology to romance literature.

Degree programs at the conservatory include the Bachelor of Music, the Master of Music and the Doctorate of Musical Arts. Diploma programs include the three-year Performance Certificate program (essentially the bachelor's degree without the liberal arts portion), the Graduate Performance diploma (an intensive performance-oriented program) and the Artist Diploma for highly advanced performers who already have budding careers.

Undergraduates must audition for the bachelor's programs -- music performance, music education or recording arts and sciences. Some options for their majors include: Composition, early music instruments, guitar, jazz, keyboard instruments, orchestral instruments and voice. Acceptance rates for the majors range from 55 percent to 65 percent, with the flute major ranked as toughest to get into.

Graduate programs include computer music, music education, music history and music performance. The performance doctorate and master's are available in composition, conducting, keyboard instruments, orchestral instruments and voice. The average acceptance rate for the master's and doctorate programs is about 57 percent.

Students living at the Peabody are within walking distance of some of Baltimore's richest cultural treasures -- the Walters Art Museum, Center Stage, The Mechanic Theatre, the Lyric Opera House and the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

The Peabody's acceptance rates may seem higher than other high-caliber music programs. According to the school, this is because its applicants tend to be the cream of the crop. And the Peabody makes it a priority to keep its atmosphere as friendly and artistically nurturing as possible for its students. The school frequently offers concerts -- from opera to orchestra to soloists -- and encourages student interaction with professors.