Peabody Johns Hopkins University Magazine

Lifting Up Musical Excellence

Lifting Up Musical Excellence

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 Peabody 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.

Headshot of Bob and Arden Travers in front of a mountain background
Bob Travers and his wife Arden

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.”

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 Travers Family 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 is studying historical performance voice, was a 2021 Launch Grant recipient for her project, “Story to Song.” In this web series, Huang will explore 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.” 

-Jennifer Walker