Annette Luyben continues her family’s history of supporting musicians
Anette Luyben, who grew up working in her family’s eponymous music store on Main Street in Kansas City, has lived her life surrounded by music and musicians. While the shop has moved online and narrowed its services, she continues to fuel the music community in Kansas City through gifts to the UMKC Conservatory.
In the past two years she has established four endowed scholarships for Conservatory students and contributed materials to the LaBudde Special Collections.
“My father opened the business in 1948,” Luyben said of the music shop.
While the first location of the store was farther south on 63rd Street, most people are familiar with the trim brick building on Main Street with the red door and red and white striped awning, with “Luyben” in distinct, linear black lettering.
“I was there from the time I was 5 years old. Later, when I went to Westport High School, I would walk over to the store to work after school. During college I worked there during the summers.”
Luyben’s sold sheet music, musical instruments and supplies, and also provided lessons for students. She remembers her parents hiring their first Conservatory student to work in the shop in 1955.
“They hired Don Shoberg, a student who had come in to buy a reed,” she says. “My mom liked him and asked if he wanted a job. He worked for us for 63 years.”
Shoberg (B.M. ’58; M.M. ’64, music composition) was the first of more than 200 students of the UMKC Conservatory who would come to work with the Luybens.
“It has been a strong bond,” she says.
Despite her respect for the business and the delight of the many friendships she made there, she did not start out to make music her life’s work.
“I have a degree in American history and economics, and I taught high school for 15 years,” said Luyben.
Luyben quit teaching and went to work in the shop when her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“I knew if the business was going to continue that my mother was going to need more help,” she says. “It was totally my choice. I was proud to be Bob Luyben’s daughter.”
The Luybens’ connection with the Conservatory included relationships with customers who had first come to the shop as children. American operatic tenor Vinson Cole, (B.M. ’72) would visit the shop as a child, Luyben recalls. As a high schooler, Grammy award-winning opera singer Joyce Di Donato was another regular visitor at the Luybens’ shop.
“We were blessed to have so many wonderful customers. I used to say, There should be a sign above the door that says, ‘The nicest people in the world walk through these doors.’”
That good will did not stop with the relationships that the Luyben family had with the students through employment and commerce. Annette Luyben is an enthusiastic and dedicated supporter of UMKC students and programs. She donated significant documentation from the shop archives to the UMKC LaBudde Special Collections this year. But her focus —and joy — is in supporting scholarships for students.
“When my mother passed away, we asked that people support a scholarship at the Conservatory in her name in lieu of flowers.”
When Robert Luyben died in 1993, she added his name to the scholarship and shifted the requirement to support students studying clarinet. But her generosity did not end there. She has established three named scholarships in the last two years.
Shoberg, who worked at the shop for those many years, died in May 2021. He remembered Annette Luyben in his estate, and her first thought was to use the money to honor Shoberg with an endowed scholarship in his name.
“Don was very active at UMKC. He was on the UMKC Alumni Association Governing Board and was very active with the Conservatory Alumni and Friends Governing Board. A scholarship seemed like the best way to honor him.”
When Luyben’s close friend Richard Williams died six months later, she thought contributing to the scholarship in his name would be a fitting tribute to Williams’ dedication to the Conservatory for his work as assistant professor of piano and voice.
“When I called Mark Mattison and told him that I wanted to contribute to Richard’s scholarship, he let me know that there wasn’t a scholarship in Richard’s name,” said Luyben.
With some of the money remaining from Shoberg’s estate, Luyben committed to establishing the Richard L. Williams Memorial Scholarship, which is available to students studying percussion.
“Richard was in our store all the time. He’d been with the Conservatory for 40 years and was close friends with Don. The day I talked to Mark I went out to get the mail and there was another check from the settlement of Don’s estate. It was enough to endow the scholarship.”
Rather than seeing herself as the significant philanthropist she is, Luyben credits her late friends.
“I’m the messenger,” she says. “It’s Don and Richard up there doing this. I’m happy there’s scholarships in place that other people can give to.”
Her most recent gift is an endowment for the Karen Richie Greer Memorial Scholarship in Percussion in honor of Karen Ricci Greer, (B.M.E., ’63). Greer, a Kansas City native and gifted percussionist, was a part-time member of the Kansas City Philharmonic at the age of 15. By the time she was 20 years old, she had joined the philharmonic full time.
Greer and Luyben became close friends in their adulthoods and attended many Conservatory events together. After Greer’s death Luyben attended a performance by percussionist Isaiah Petrie.
“He blew my mind,” she remembers. “The following week I reached out to Walter Greer and said, ‘I saw this musician play and he’s remarkable. It made me think of Karen. Do you want to establish a scholarship with me in her name?’ And he did.”
Luyben waves away the idea that she could be spending this money on herself.
“These people deserve to be remembered,” she says. “It’s important. Don was incredible. Richard Williams and Karen committed so much. They deserve to be remembered in some other way than on a tombstone.”