Lifting Up Musical Excellence

August 2, 2022 by Jennifer Walker

A Family Foundation boosts scholarship support for Peabody’s Launch Grant program

After his mother died three years ago, Bob Travers found a history book among her belongings that mentioned Alfons William Schenuit, Travers’ great-grandfather who studied at the Peabody Institute in the late 1800s. Moved by Schenuit’s impressive accomplishments in music, Travers — a dedicated philanthropist with his wife, Arden, through their family’s foundation, the Travers Family Foundation — was inspired to support Peabody students through Launch Grants in the name of his great-grandfather, a celebrated organist.

With mountains in the background, Peabody Launch Grant donors Arden and Bob Travers smile and face the camera wearing sun hats.
Through their family’s foundation, Arden and Bob Travers provide generous scholarship support to talented young musicians participating in Peabody’s Launch Grant program.

Alfons Schenuit’s musical journey began in Pittsburgh, where he studied music with his father, a well-known musician, and became an organist at a local church at the age of 12. As an adult, he moved to Baltimore, studied at Peabody, and later opened the Maryland School of Music, the state’s first private music school. Schenuit, who was also a composer, performed as an organist at the Baltimore Cathedral for 42 years. Travers’ research has shown that his great-grandfather was the first to introduce opera to Baltimore through his 1909 production of Pirates of Penzance at the original Lyric theatre.

These accomplishments led Schenuit to be included in the book The Free State of Maryland, V4: A History of a State and Its People, 1634–1941, where the authors write, “[A] history of Baltimore’s development in the field of art would not be complete without reference to Alfons William Schenuit, who for many decades ranked with the most distinguished and leading musicians not only of this city but of this section of the country as well.”

Standing in profile on a stage in front of a piano, Peabody Launch Grant recipient Mira-Fu-En Huang wears black pants, black top, and a long gold scarf.
Peabody master’s student Mira Fu-En Yuang, who is also pictured in the top image, was a 2021 Launch Grant recipient for her project “Story to Song.” Photo: Alexander Yan (above), Britt Olson-Ecker (top)

A desire to lift up others who achieve musical excellence is also what drew Travers to support the Launch Grant program. Peabody students apply for these highly competitive grants in their Pitching a Creative Idea class, part of Peabody’s Breakthrough Curriculum, which is designed to give students the business and marketing skills they need to succeed as professional musicians. The Mary Jean and Oliver Travers Foundation’s generous gift of $100,000 will be used to create the Alfons William Schenuit Endowed Scholarship to provide a Launch Grant for one student annually into perpetuity.

Mira Fu-En Huang, a Master of Music student who studied historical performance voice, was a 2021 Launch Grant recipient for her project, “Story to Song.” In this web series, Huang explores the history behind various incarnations of Snow White while pairing her analysis with classical music from relevant time periods.

The first episode will focus on the 1812 German version of the tale by the Brothers Grimm accompanied by Huang singing a version of “Das verlassene Mägdlein.” Other episodes will center on versions of Snow White from Armenia, China, France, Japan, and Scotland, with the goal of using fairy tales to educate middle and high school students about classical music, literature, history, and cultural anthropology.

“My budget for this project has been almost entirely accounted for by the Launch Grant,” says Huang, who has used the funding to purchase recording equipment and reference texts, to support administrative fees, and to commission visual art for each episode. “My project would not exist without this program.”

This story first appeared in Peabody Magazine’s Spring 2022 issue.

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Topics: Alumni, Peabody Institute, Support Scholars