Opportunities for a Lifetime
Louise Behrend on Education and Charitable Giving
One would never guess that Louise Behrend is a nonagenarian. With the energy and enthusiasm of a young teacher just out of college, Ms. Behrend spends much of her time traveling between The Juilliard School, her alma mater, and The School For Strings, the community music school that she founded. An alumna of the Juilliard Graduate School, a member of the College Graduate Faculty, and a violin faculty member of Juilliard's Pre-College Division, Ms. Behrend has a particularly active lifestyle. Taking a few moments to rest and reflect on how her role at Juilliard has changed during the course of her lifetime, Ms. Behrend discussed everything from her beginnings in music to her financial planning and charitable giving at the School.
"I first came to New York when I was 16 turning 17 to study with Louis Persinger," Ms Behrend remembered. A late starter in music because of her poor health as a youngster, Ms. Behrend only began studying the violin at the age of 10. Nevertheless, she impressed Louis Persinger, generally an instructor at the graduate level only, and he agreed to take her on as his student.
"At that point I was not ready for the extremely competitive audition for the Juilliard Graduate School, so I went to the Institute for Musical Art, which shared some faculty with Juilliard." After studying with Mr. Persinger for some time and taking classes at the Institute, she successfully auditioned for a position in the Juilliard Graduate School. "You got in for one year, after that, your exams told you whether you could come back. We all had ulcers preparing for them." She spent a total of three years studying at the Graduate School.
Ms. Behrend studied at Juilliard during a different era in the School's history, before the Institute for Musical Art and the Juilliard Graduate School merged to become the Juilliard School of Music, before courses of study came to include dance and drama; and before the school was located at Lincoln Center Plaza. "At that time Juilliard was all fellowship...you got in, it was free. They didn't let you pay."
Her experience studying tuition-free at Juilliard planted the seed of much of what Louise Behrend believes in and works toward today. "I felt very strongly always that at the ideal music school, anyone who wants to study should be able to study. Of course, you want good faculty who are paid well, but students should pay very little." These two qualifications are problematic to reconcile, certainly, but she has no doubt as to the value of her goals. "This is important. Every child can be educated and every child deserves to be educated." It was this belief that motivated Louise Behrend to create an endowed scholarship at Juilliard in memory of her beloved teacher, which will provide critical financial support to young violinists for generations to come.
Ms. Behrend also wanted her long-term financial planning to reflect her gratitude to Juilliard for the education she had received. She found that creating a life income gift called a Charitable Gift Annuity was both a wonderful way to remember The Juilliard School as well as a terrific personal investment. In fact, Ms. Behrend was so pleased with the Gift Annuity plan, that she created three different gift annuities with Juilliard over the years.
A life income plan in which benefits increase with the giver's age, the Charitable Gift Annuity is an agreement between an individual and a qualified charity like The Juilliard School. The donor transfers assets to the organization and receives a fixed payment from those assets for the rest of his or her life, leaving any remaining assets to the charity.
While Louise Behrend sees the practical use of annuity agreements in the present, she's also pleased to know that Juilliard will benefit in the future as well. She commented, "I always felt that since Juilliard had given me my education, I had to pay them back." The eventual funds from her gift annuities with Juilliard will one day be added to the Louis Persinger Scholarship, further strengthening this endowed award in her teacher's memory.
"In some strange way, he's been rather forgotten," she said of Persinger. "Those of his students who are around remember he was exemplary of the great Romantic school, meaning that everything he did was toward realizing the beauty of the music." She said "he hated anything that had brain before heart; he said ‘trust your instincts first, then prove them out.'"
Louise Behrend continues to prove her instincts daily in her projects at The School for Strings and Juilliard, and she shows no sign of slowing. When asked the secret of her seemingly endless energy, she gives much of the credit to the arts. Referring to herself and her fellow musicians, she pointed out, "We seem to be able to go on longer than people in other professions...we don't just fade away, we keep on going. What is it that keeps us going? Maybe it's music."
By Emily J. O'Neill