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"By doing, by action, you can inspire"

Peabody parent and volunteer Laifun Chung opens the institute's doors for deserving students through endowed scholarship
Posted January 21, 2016
Marilyn Iparraguirre, Chung-Kotcheff Family Endowed Scholarship recipient Marilyn Iparraguirre, Chung-Kotcheff Family Endowed Scholarship recipient

If asked to match a musician to her chosen instrument, you probably wouldn't pair Peabody Institute student Marilyn Iparraguirre, Class of 2016, with the tuba. Yet the petite Los Angeles native has devoted much of her last decade to the instrument she calls "the silent leader of the orchestra."

Iparraguirre's path to Peabody has been equally unlikely. A first-generation college student and the daughter of Peruvian immigrants, she quickly acknowledges that her Johns Hopkins experience wouldn't have been possible without Laifun Chung, a member of Peabody's National Advisory Council. Chung and her husband, Ted Kotcheff, who live in Los Angeles, endowed a scholarship in 2011 in appreciation of the transformative experience their son, composer and pianist Thomas Kotcheff '10, enjoyed at Peabody. Recently, the couple made a second gift – a bequest that will further support the Chung-Kotcheff Family Endowed Scholarship.

Chung's six years of service on Peabody's advisory council also played a role in her choice to endow a scholarship and make a planned gift. She realized the intense competition that exists for top young musicians and how scholarships can influence a prospect's choice to attend an institution. She also recognized an opportunity to help increase the geographic diversity of Peabody's student body.

"Peabody is a place that many kids on the West Coast wouldn't dream of applying to. It has a high reputation, and it's daunting to go to a school that's so far away from home," says Chung. "I want to give Peabody a national presence and keep it growing."

The Chung-Kotcheff Family Endowed Scholarship gives preference to students from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), Thomas Kotcheff's alma mater. Its establishment couldn't have been timed more perfectly for Iparraguirre, who in the fall of 2011 starred in LACHSA's brass ensemble. In a rare opportunity for a tuba player, she joined the school's wind ensemble to perform a work Kotcheff had composed.

"He was an all-around great example of who a Peabody student could become," Iparraguirre says of Kotcheff, who is now pursuing a doctorate in composition at the University of Southern California.

Sitting in a Baltimore coffee shop on a December afternoon, Iparraguirre reminisces about her own transformative Peabody experience. She credits her exposure to different teachers' styles and perspectives, in addition to the "exciting and innovative" world of Baltimore music, with giving her the courage to determine her own path in music. And through her internship as an education assistant with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, she's discovered a keen interest in arts administration – a career path she looks forward to following after graduation in May.

When asked about Chung and Kotcheff's generosity, though, she tears up and needs a moment to choose words to express gratitude properly.

"I wouldn't have been able to go to college without it," she says. "I'm excited for my future. I feel confident in myself – and I know it's because of the Chung-Kotcheff Family Scholarship."

Chung understands that feeling because she herself comes from a family of immigrants from Hong Kong. The generosity of others paved her way toward her career as a successful professional landscape designer. She's pleased to have a chance to pay it forward and encourage others to follow in her philanthropic footsteps.

"By doing, by action, you can inspire," says Chung. "This is a way to continue excellence – to give hope and chance to young musicians."

Make a gift today to open Peabody and Johns Hopkins' doors to more students like Marilyn Iparraguirre.

To learn how to help students like Marilyn obtain a scholarship, contact Jessica Lunken.