“Art brings beauty and meaning to life. Music speaks directly to the
gut or more particularly the midbrain, lending vast emotive power
before intellect is even engaged. Of all the gorgeous instruments none is
more so than voice.”—Thomas H. Powell, M.D.
Tom Powell can cite a lifetime of memorable performances. In the 1930s, radio introduced him to the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Live performances were available from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, local churches with many fine soloists, and visiting orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra and Toscanini with the NBC Symphony. He saw no opera until he was an undergraduate near New York — Wagner’s Siegfried of all things, at the Met. Of Baltimore’s Peabody Institute, Tom says: “We are fortunate to have Peabody, where a smaller hall and the enthusiasm of students make for wonderful performances. Best Cosi I’ve ever seen is still Peabody’s.”
Born in Baltimore, he received a medical degree at Johns Hopkins and completed residency there as well. Only after he retired was able to attend performances more frequently. Tom introduced his late partner, William “Bill” More, a mathematician, to opera. Bill was immediately hooked.
On his untimely death in 1994, Tom considered a constructive way to remember Bill, deciding on a scholarship in Bill’s name at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In 2010, Tom decided to honor Bill’s memory and their love of music with a term scholarship at Peabody for a vocal student, Natanya Washer, a freshman studying with Phyllis Bryn-Julson. Now Tom has made provisions in his estate for one of Peabody’s larger commitments, a bequest that will create multiple scholarships and establish the William W. More, Ph.D. and Thomas H. Powell, M.D. Scholarship Fund.
On Jan. 25, 2012, at a small gathering in Director Jeffrey Sharkey’s office, Natanya—then a sophomore—gave a brief performance with Phyllis Bryn-Julson at the piano, as a tribute to Tom’s recent generosity to Peabody. Reflecting on his philanthropy, Tom stated: “Helping the next generation of artists as they pursue a career in music is itself a source of pleasure.”