Peabody director Sharkey to step down

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After seven years as director of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, Jeffrey Sharkey is stepping down. He will remain with the conservatory until a successor is named.

"So much of what I hoped to accomplish I feel I have accomplished," Sharkey, 48, said Friday. "But there's an arc to a leadership position. I think that fresh eyes are always a good thing. A new burst of energy will be good for Peabody, and for me, too."

Peabody, the nation's oldest conservatory, opened in 1866. Not counting a few interim directors, Sharkey is the school's 13th director. Before succeeding Robert Sirota in 2006, he was dean of the Cleveland Institute of Music. Previous positions include director of music at the Purcell School in London.

In a statement Friday, Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels said that the conservatory and preparatory divisions at Peabody "are in a stronger position today as a result of Jeff's leadership."

Daniels said the annual pace of fundraising had more than doubled during Sharkey's tenure and pointed to the $22 million raised so far in a just-launched $75 million campaign.

"I wish Peabody were a wealthier conservatory, in a position to be able to do all the things we want to do," Sharkey said. "Our endowment is approaching $90 million, but some other conservatories have three to six times what we have."

Mark Paris, an investment banker in New York who graduated from Peabody in 1984 with a major in voice, was coaxed by Sharkey to reconnect with the conservatory a few years ago and is now chair of the Peabody National Advisory Council.

"Our reach has grown every year," Paris said. "The National Advisory Council is now more national in scope."

Sharkey pursued new connections between Peabody and Hopkins, including programs that saw conservatory students on the university's Homewood campus working on projects with the university's Brain Science Institute.

Other outreach programs launched in recent years include one that fosters connections between Peabody students and city schools and African-American churches in Baltimore.

"We don't just want our students to play well," Sharkey said. "They have to develop their audience and, in doing so, advocate for the art."

Other projects have included a new Music Entrepreneurship and Career Center and an undergraduate Business of Music minor.

Sharkey also has focused on Peabody's involvement with the community. One of his first meetings after arriving was with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director Marin Alsop.

"Marin wanted to see closer ties between the BSO and Peabody, and she found in Jeff a partner who believed in that," said the orchestra's CEO, Paul Meecham.

That association was solidified most notably by the launch of the BSO-Peabody Conducting Fellowship six years ago.

Additions to the Peabody faculty during Sharkey's tenure include stellar mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and Anthony McGill, principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

A pianist and composer, Sharkey said he had no immediate plans for his next job but was looking at possibilities in this country and in Britain.

Details of a search for Sharkey's successor will be announced, Daniels said.

tim smith@baltsun.com

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