A music conservatory is, of course, conservative. And
no one at a conservatory is likely ever to argue that Bach,
Beethoven and Brahms aren't worth listening to anymore.
But a conservatory — especially one like the
Institute — must also be subversive, in some ways
radical and, above all, passionate, Peabody's
"Music is one of the deepest forms of communication
there is," pianist, composer and veteran music educator
Jeffrey Sharkey said. "Our graduates need to be passionate
advocates for this wonderful art."
Peabody, Sharkey said, is wonderfully positioned to
provide the "deep, thoughtful, connected form of education
within the art of music" that helps students develop that
Unlike some conservatories, he said, Peabody has a
"wonderful, strong composition program," connecting budding
players with the continuing evolution of music. It has a
new jazz department. It teaches world music. It has the
Peabody Preparatory and a thriving music education program,
both of which can be national models and help form not only
new musicians but new audiences for music.
And Peabody has a growing number of connections with
other divisions of the university, Sharkey said.
"Peabody should aim to be one of the top two or three
places in the country [and] an institution of international
importance," Sharkey said. "Its breadth gives it
possibilities that no other places have. So many of the
ingredients are there."
The link between Peabody and the rest of Johns Hopkins
is very powerful, he said. "It's not just an individual
conservatory out on its own. Peabody can benefit from Johns
Hopkins' great reach nationally and internationally. Johns
Hopkins can benefit from the way that Peabody touches
Sharkey, now dean of the Cleveland Institute of Music,
will join Johns Hopkins on Oct. 1. He succeeds Robert
Sirota, who last year became president of the Manhattan
School of Music.
"A Russian friend of mine once told me that the three
most important things for a great school of music are the
finest teachers teaching the finest students in the finest
facilities," Sharkey said. "Bob Sirota has done so much to
make sure Peabody's facilities are the finest. We have some
wonderful faculty I'm looking forward to getting to know.
And, of course, we have wonderful students.
"But keeping all those things is the challenge" for a
new director, he said. Meeting that challenge, he said, is
a matter of building partnerships: partnerships between
faculty members and the admissions office, partnerships
between the conservatory and institutions like the
Baltimore Symphony and, of course, partnerships with
Sharkey, who is 41, became dean of the Cleveland
Institute in 2001, serving as the chief academic officer of
its college division. At Peabody, he will lead both the
college-level conservatory — one of the nation's
leading professional music schools with 650 students and
nearly 250 faculty members — and the Prep, a
community music school with 1,800 child and adult
Under Sharkey's leadership, CIM has increased
applications by 25 percent. He has recruited distinguished
faculty members, developed new structures for student
affairs and advising, and created exchange programs with
London's Royal Academy of Music and the Paris
Conservatoire. He has strengthened CIM's close ties with
nearby Case Western Reserve University and works closely
with the institute's president on a $40 million capital
campaign that includes funding for a new recital hall and
an education building now under construction.
Before joining CIM, Sharkey was director of music at
the Purcell School in London from 1996 to 2001 and head of
composition and academic music at Wells Cathedral School,
also in England, from 1990 to 1996.
A Delaware native, he is a 1986 graduate of the
Manhattan School of Music and earned a master of music
degree in composition from Yale University in 1988 and a
master of philosophy from Cambridge University a year
later. His teachers included pianists John Browning, Boris
Berman and Peter Frankl and composers Aaron Copland and
Sharkey was a founding member of the Pirasti Piano
Trio, which recorded with ASV Records in the United Kingdom
and toured throughout Europe and the United States. Since
returning to America, he has played in Trio Zannetti and
performed regularly with members of the Cleveland Orchestra
and CIM faculty. His compositions have been performed by
the St. Louis Symphony under the direction of Leonard
Slatkin and in chamber concerts in the United States and
Sharkey is married to Alison Wells, who will join the
Peabody cello faculty. They have three daughters, Jessica,
13; Olivia, 10; and Florence, 6.