Enter your email address and click subscribe to receive new articles in your email inbox:

Peter Landgren Plans to Get CCM "Off the Hill"

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Nov 8, 2011 - 12:48:04 PM in news_2011

Peter Landgren

(first published in Express Cincinnati Nov. 2011)

“Being dean of CCM, I feel like I have 1,500 students,” said Peter Landgren, incoming dean of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

That’s a big switch from playing French horn in a symphony orchestra.

A CCM alumnus who comes to Cincinnati from Baldwin-Wallace College, where he headed the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory, Landgren recalls approaching his 25th anniversary with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra:

“As first horn in an orchestra, I was able to play for about 2,500 people a night.  We played 200 concerts a year, so that’s a lot of people.  In the horn studio, I was influencing one student at a time.  I was thinking, ‘I could do this for another 25 years.’  I still loved it.  I still did it very well.  Yet I wanted to stop while I still loved it and did it well.”

Landgren, 54, was also on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University.  “They had a tremendous leadership development program that I took part in.  I was able to use an executive coach one-on-one for quite a while, and I explored the possibilities – what I’m like, what I enjoy doing.  What ended up happening is I wanted to influence the lives of more people, especially students.”

Landgren led a major change initiative at Peabody, which enabled him to better understand administration, “the functional side of how an arts organization ran, how as a leader I was used to leading with my instrument rather than with my thoughts and my voice.”  He was appointed interim director of Peabody in 2005-2006. “This was a great training ground,” he said.  “I’m going to take a year off from the orchestra.  Do I like not playing 200 concerts a year?  Was I good at the work and did I enjoy it?  I loved it.  That was the launch of my administrative career.”  For the next four years, he served as director and professor of music at Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory.

He has lost no time taking up the reins at CCM.  He and his wife Judith Schonbach, an audio producer for the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, have bought a house in North Avondale.  He has met a tremendous number of people.  “Today (mid-October) is the second time since I started on Sept. 1 that I’ve had lunch by myself,” he said.

Landgren left CCM during his senior year (1978) to join the Baltimore Symphony.   He was 21.  Aside from the construction of CCM Village, which, with its old and new buildings, “really reflects the aesthetic and diversity of CCM,” he said, the biggest change he sees coming back is the faculty.  “Nearly the entire faculty has turned over.  The fact that CCM’s reputation is as strong if not stronger than it was when I was a student is not surprising, because I would expect nothing less of this school.  The other major change I’ve seen is that there are more full-time faculty than when I was a student.”

Landgren’s primary goal as CCM dean is “sustainable excellence.  So that what CCM does, department to division to college, bar none, is excellent.  It’s easy to tell when we have an E-media student who right after graduation, is hired as a videographer for the New World Symphony, or when we’ve got these stellar Chinese opera students.  You can look across the board.” 

Landgren plans to be a strong fund-raiser for CCM.  “I think I’m more than an avid fund raiser.  I’m a rabid fund raiser.  I love talking with people about music and creativity.”  He intends to take his pitch well beyond Cincinnati – to keep alumni (ae) re-connected, for example – and, most importantly, beyond the same cadre of loyal donors.  “One of the ways you can really thank a donor is to tell them next time a project comes up that there’s somebody else you’re going to be going to for that.  That will make them more receptive the next time you come back to them.  I’ve seen arts organizations for decades rely on one or two or a small group of people for everything they do.  There’s only one end for those organizations and it’s not pretty.”

In terms of faculty, Landgren has made engaging a string quartet-in-residence a top priority.  “It’s something that, as a premier school of music, CCM needs.  We should be able to make an announcement of a new string quartet residency at CCM very soon.”

Other things he would like to do include establishing a closer connection between CCM and its Gorno Music Library (currently housed in Blegen Library up the hill from CCM).  “Our Composition/Musicology/Theory Division is coming out with recordings, books and manuscripts, so I’m working on getting them connected with our performance faculty and the Library.  We’re going to celebrate some of these book releases and put some of our performers into the Library to play things from the book(s).”

Landgren also wants to revive summer programming on campus (dormant since 2009).  “CCM has a myriad of summer programs all across the globe.  I’m getting all of those coordinators to talk to each other to see what they have in common.  Not that they have to collaborate, or give anything up, or move something, but just what are you all doing?  Is there any duplication of effort?  The question I’m asking all of them is what has CCM to benefit from this program?”

Because the University is shifting from a quarter system to a semester system next fall, the summer of 2012 will be very short (literally seven weeks).  “I like this because now we have over a year-and-a-half lead time to plan for the summer of 2013.  We may be able to bring this place back to life.”

Impressed on Landgren since his job interview is the need for CCM “to get off the hill,” he said.  “Beyond our music education students, who through their curriculum are out in the public schools teaching, I want to make sure that our performers get off the hill.  One of the saddest things, I think, is when somebody is preparing a recital, to work months and months on a program and play it once.  What I’m really interested in is what our students are going to do after graduation.  They need to be artistic entrepreneurs.  If they can start that while they’re in school and before that senior recital, find a hospital who wants to host them at lunch for their employees, doing that and getting them engaged in the community will not only help them spread the message of CCM, but show them a possible path for their career and their life.”

Landgren is getting off the hill already. “There are natural synergies that CCM has with just about every college on this campus.  The most direct would be DAAP (Division of Art, Architecture and Planning) because we are the two creative schools.”  Landgren has put his wall space where his mouth is:  His office at CCM -- bare walls at the time of this interview -- “is going to be a rotating art gallery of DAAP faculty and student art work,” he said.

“Through our E-media program, there are synergies through communications and all sorts of areas.  With Larry Johnson (dean of the College of Education) we’ve talked about summer programming and reaching out to area public school teachers to give them some better tools in education and advance their knowledge.  We’re making great connections with our satellite campuses in Clermont and Blue Ash, and, hopefully, we’ll soon be offering CCM courses to those populations.”

“The strength of CCM is its diversity,” he said.  “When you think at CCM, you obviously look at the strength of the voice, opera, musical theater and conducting programs. They are the ones that have national rankings.  But when you look beyond the rankings, if you look at the 2011 dance class, all of them are working professionals now.  Look at the drama, technical and production students, where they’re going, and the E-media students, who are in such a variety of walks of life.  When I got here, I heard we were light on tuba players.  ‘Was it a bad recruiting year?’ I said.  ‘Oh, no, all of our students got jobs and left.’  I said, “that’s what we’re here for.’”

Born in New Haven, CT, Landgren grew up in Rochester, NY, son of a civil engineer who played “all of the brass instruments except horn” in high school.  “There was always good music playing in our house.”  Landgren, who started playing horn at 8, has quite a musical pedigree:  In high school, he studied with Milan Yancich at the Eastman School of Music.  He came to CCM to study with Mike Hatfield (now of Indiana University) and in the summers, lived in Chicago and studied with Dale Clevenger, principal horn of the Chicago Symphony.  He won CCM’s concerto competition three times and made his professional solo debut with the Baltimore Symphony at 24.  He has performed as principal horn with the Cincinnati, Houston and Columbus Symphonies and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.  His recordings include “Golden Horn” (his debut solo album from 1995) and the complete Mozart horn concertos in an arrangement with the Atlantic String Quartet.

Asked if he will continue to play the horn, he said, “Yes.  I’ll join the Union down here, but I think my most joyous time, once my schedule slacks off a little bit, will be to be able to go down to the Horn Choir (CCM ensemble led by Randy Gardner) and sit down and play along with the current students.”