Peabody “Has Helped My Entire Life”

February 17, 2017

Mateen Milan’s Peabody journey began when he enrolled in the Preparatory’s Tuned-In program for Baltimore City youth. Now a second-year Baltimore Scholar at the Conservatory, he reflects on his experience, which Hopkins donors have helped make possible.

Music became a thing for me when I was 9 or 10, in public school. I played the clarinet, and the teacher said, “If he enjoys this enough, could we put him somewhere where he can play the instrument outside of school, too?” She knew someone at Peabody who worked with the Tuned-In program, and they asked me if I would be interested in coming in on Saturdays to take classes. At that point, I had no idea what Peabody was, but I knew I liked playing the clarinet. That’s how I ended up walking through Peabody’s doors.


“Just like you have to give a plant water to grow, students like me, from adverse backgrounds, need our water. We all need something to help us cultivate our artistic abilities, but also our lives.”

Mateen Milan Peabody Institute, Class of 2019

When I got into the Prep, there were a bunch of kids playing the clarinet, and someone asked if anyone was interested in playing anything else. I said, I was, and I suggested the bassoon. I didn’t have a crazy dream where someone whispered “play the bassoon!” in my ear. I saw it on a poster and thought: “That kind of looks like a musket! Cool!” They took me seriously, and found me a bassoon.

Two children stand on a stage with musicians in the background while another man, sitting on a stool, holds a microphone asking them a question.
Once a participant in the Tuned In program, Peabody Conservatory student Mateen Milan, far left, now serves as an instructor and mentor for Baltimore youth.

I didn’t know that I wanted to be an orchestral musician when I grew up until one of my first concerts at the Baltimore School of the Arts. We were performing this piece by an English composer. Ever since I played that music, I’ve wanted to make beautiful music for people to enjoy. I learned that I really loved performing, and I wanted to replicate that feeling over and over.

You’d be surprised to realize the kind of unknown turf that music — and Peabody — are to Baltimore City kids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain to people what a bassoon is. I’ll pull up my Facebook picture just so they can see what a bassoon looks like. In my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I’d bring friends from my neighborhood to Peabody just so they could see what it looked like. I wanted to see more African American kids looking in and seeing what’s going on here.

When I applied to college, I had to do seven auditions. Peabody happened to be my last audition out of all of them. I thought, “I have to get into this school, not just for me, but for the kids who come after me.” It’s one thing to say the pipeline Peabody Prep is creating CAN lead to success, but for me, I needed to SHOW it. “He did it.” “He made it into the Conservatory.” And now I’m here.

Peabody is a place for growth, and I get to see it firsthand when I work on Saturdays with Tuned-In. When I leave, I see the students there outside, having fun with each other. I remember my first experiences at Peabody and I realize that an important foundation is being laid for them here.

Just like you have to give a plant water to grow, students like me, from adverse backgrounds, need our water. We all need something to help us cultivate our artistic abilities, but also our lives. I wouldn’t be at Peabody — or any conservatory for that matter — without someone taking my hand and helping me get here. Funding that supports Peabody hasn’t just helped my artistic side; it has helped my entire life.

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Topics: Peabody Institute, Strengthen Communities, Support Scholars