Question: What does the nation’s largest free-standing music store, known for supplying instruments and equipment to artists such as Stevie Wonder and the Rolling Stones, have in common with the oldest conservatory of music in the country? Answer: The legacy of Chuck and Marge Levin.
Chuck and Marge Levin founded Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center in 1958 as an adjunct to a pawnshop operated by Chuck’s family. In 1968, they moved the store to Wheaton, Md., where it grew to occupy an entire city block. A destination store for professional musicians and devoted amateurs alike, “Chuck’s” sells and rents instruments and audio equipment across the country, while maintaining its mom-and-pop-store attention to personal relationships and the individual customer.
The store remains a family business, now run by the three children of Chuck and Marge: Abbe, Alan, and Robert. Chuck passed away in 2002 and Marge died eight years later, in 2010. During their lifetime, they started a foundation, The Charles and Margaret Levin Family Charitable Foundation. One of their dreams was to establish scholarships to enable high school musicians to go to college in pursuit of careers in music.
And that is the Peabody connection. The siblings designated Abbe to determine the best way to realize their parents’ wishes. She contacted Peabody and asked for information about establishing a scholarship in their names. Abbe explained that the children wanted this scholarship to provide the full cost of tuition, as well as room, board, and other college-related expenses. In addition, it should go only to students with truly significant financial need.
The family also specified that the scholarship was to be awarded to a resident of Washington, D.C.; Montgomery County; or Prince George’s County, areas that the store serves and where Marge and Chuck worked, lived, and raised their family.
Chuck’s and Marge’s names will live on at the Peabody Conservatory through their scholarship, The Chuck and Marge Levin Endowed Scholarship Fund. The family has made a $600,000 commitment, the payout of which will be matched by JHU President Ron Daniels’ undergraduate initiative. When fully funded, the endowment will generate sufficient income each year to cover almost the entire cost of attending Peabody.
The first scholarship recipient will enter Peabody this fall. When he or she steps across the stage in May 2017 to accept a diploma, ready to carve out a career in music, it will be a very special and fitting tribute to the two people who built the landmark store that continues to nourish successive generations of musicians.