Peabody Guitar Scholars Selected as Ex-Aequo Emerging Artists

February 13, 2024 by Renee Fischer

Deering and Cape Foundation Scholars Create Community Connections


The audience at a classical music concert often sits very quietly, not wanting to distract the performers and listening for every perfect note. And while the highest level of performance is a priority, two Peabody Institute guitar scholars define their most successful concerts as ones where they feel a deeper connection with the audience.

Gwenyth Aggeler, a senior who receives the Cape Foundation Endowed Scholarship, began playing classical guitar at age nine and admits that when her childhood teacher offered candy as an incentive, it did help pique her interest initially. A youth master class at age 15 with her current mentor, Manuel Barrueco, Peab ’75, solidified her love for the instrument and her desire to attend Peabody.

Bowen Zheng, Peab ’23, now a graduate student and a Deering Endowed Scholar, originally hails from China and came to the U.S. to pursue a computer science degree, but he attended a classical guitar concert shortly after arriving and was immediately drawn to the beauty of the music. Knowing that many professional musicians start earlier in life, Zheng says he was even more determined to become proficient on this instrument and share it with others.

“I want to have this connection with the audience when they come up to you after the concert saying, ‘That piece really moved me,’ or ‘that story resonated with my life story,’ ” says Zheng, who adds that art is a way to explore some of the harder topics in life. He often talks about the music to the audience and then performs.

“I do think the final goal is to lose the ego of it and in some ways lose yourself in the music,” Aggeler says.” “And if audiences come away with an experience that benefits them, then I did what I needed to do.”

Both Aggeler and Zheng were selected as Ex-Aequo’s 2023 Emerging Artists, a global competition in which only six musicians are chosen each year. “It is kind of crazy when you think about it that the six people were selected from literally all over the world, and two of them, indeed, came from Peabody,” says Zheng about the competition.

The 2023 winners spent a four-day residency in Austin, TX; recorded a collaborative album produced by Drew Henderson which includes a new piece by Sergio Assad called, “Six by Six;” performed for the Austin Classical Guitar Society in a live-streamed concert; and participated in career mentorship workshops.

“I really learned a lot through the residency, not only about how to improve as a musician, because people were all playing different styles of music, but also as a person, too,” Aggeler says. “

Aggeler and Zheng say their education at Peabody is also not only informing them as artists, but opening them up to opportunities like emerging artist residency.

“I really like to pick pieces that challenge me in some way, that really push me to become a better musician, and I’m really inspired by the other people and the other musicians and dancers that I’m around,” says Aggeler, who adds that receiving the Cape Foundation Endowed Scholarship was also a big factor in her ability to attend Peabody.

“The financial assistance from the Deering Endowed Scholarship relieves the pressure on both myself and my parents back home, too. So, I can keep doing the things I love and work with these amazing teachers and peers without all the financial stress,” Zheng says, who studies with Assistant Professor Thomas Viloteau, DMA.

“The guitar is a very versatile instrument. Just by yourself, you can create a whole orchestra. You’re not limited to only be a classical musician. You can do jazz; you can do pop, which is very empowering for me to think about,” says Zheng.

In the future, Zheng would like to combine his interest in computer science with music, but also use music to be an advocate for those who suffer mental health issues.

“The world is moving at such a fast pace, and sometimes you don’t get as grounded as you want. And I feel like that’s what music brought me; so, I kind of see music as a healing tool,” Zheng says.

“One of the most beautiful things about playing and about getting to experience music is that it feels to me so connected to other parts of our daily lives, and I think it can bring us closer to each other,” adds Aggeler, who often plays at Johns Hopkins Hospital among other venues.

Make Your Gift

Want to support scholarships at the Peabody Institute?

Topics: Peabody Institute, Support Scholars