Laifun Chung and Ted Kotcheff, parents of alumnus Thomas Kotcheff (BM ’10, Piano) have established a $3 million bequest for undergraduate scholarships at Peabody.
Ms. Chung says her son’s experience at Peabody, where he studied piano with Benjamin Pasternack and took composition lessons with Tom Benjamin, was “really transformational, both as a performer and as a human being.” She saw firsthand what Peabody can do to mold and develop young artists, she says.
“My son was gifted, in that things came quite easily to him,” says Ms. Chung. “But the level of excellence was so high at Peabody, he had to decide whether to step up or step out. He decided to step up.” He is now pursuing a doctorate in composition at the University of Southern California and has won numerous prizes for his works. Ms. Chung says that as her son establishes himself as a serious musician and com- poser, he has applied the knowledge and tools he acquired at Peabody.
Although she lives in California, where she is a professional landscape designer, Ms. Chung has become an avid supporter of the school, serving on its National Advisory Council and establishing both an endowed and a current-use undergraduate scholarship in the past four years.
“I just fell in love with the school,” she says, “and when I was asked to be on the board, I joined.” At about the same time, she said, she joined the board of her son’s alma mater, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA). Ms. Chung saw a perfect opportunity to help LACHSA students get a superb musical education, while helping Peabody diversify its student body geographically. She created scholarships at Peabody to help recruit top students from LACHSA.
Her experience as a member of the search committee for the new Peabody dean helped her appreciate how providing scholarships profoundly influences an institution’s ability to sustain excellence. By giving to attract and retain excellent students, she says, she believes she can make a huge difference at Peabody.
While philanthropy at this level is new to her, Ms. Chung says, she was inspired by the stories of fellow legacy donors Jill McGovern and Taylor Hanex, who support Peabody because of their personal connections with and passion for the institution and a deep desire to nurture young musical talent.
Ms. Chung says she is proud that two LACHSA alumni were among the successful applicants to Peabody in recent years. “These kids just moved me with their excellence and their desire to go to a school that I loved,” she says.
— Christine Stutz