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A musical rite of passage


Stroll the halls of Johns Hopkins University's Peabody Conservatory and hear the sounds of potential. Peek through the door of one of the intimate classrooms and see the young musicians pouring their souls into their instruments.

They're here — these aspiring young violinists, pianists, saxophonists and vocalists — to wow the faculty at one of the nation's most highly regarded music schools. They're here this fourth week in February for Audition Week — the longstanding Peabody tradition that pits nerves and anxiety against hope and excitement.

Hundreds of these prospective students and their families descended on the conservatory in Baltimore's hip and historic Mount Vernon to strut their stuff. Some came with family members, others, mostly prospective graduate students, came alone. The day started for most of the musicians with check-in at the conservatory's sky-lighted Grand Arcade. They then took part in information sessions, theory and ear-training exams, open rehearsals and finally auditions.

Throughout the week, the young musicians were presented with the opportunity to display their talents before Peabody's faculty in various disciplines from the harp and early music departments, to the voice and piano programs, the conservatory's largest divisions. In this time honored Peabody rite of passage, the prospective students were all asked to perform before faculty members who listened and took notes on the musicians' performances — notes that the faculty will submit to the conservatory's Enrollment Management Committee whose deliberations will be the basis for admission.

Mellasenah Morris, deputy director of the Peabody Institute and dean of the conservatory, knows what it's like to go through the audition process here. She arrived at Peabody as a 16-year-old piano student and went on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees and a doctorate in musical arts from the conservatory. Morris is also the mother of a Peabody graduate.

"There are three truly special times of year in the conservatory," said Morris. She was referring to Orientation Week with the fresh energy approaching a new year, commencement and, of course, Audition Week. "During Audition Week, the entire conservatory pauses to give full focus on the next year's class."

Photo and audio by Chris Hartlove

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