Peter Marvit, scientist and music enthusiast

Peter Marvit

Peter Marvit, a 51-year-old scientist who sang with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society and sought to widen music education opportunities for city students, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital after he was shot near his Northeast Baltimore home last Monday night. He had been returning home from a choral rehearsal.

"If there was anyone who really had a great love of the city, he was it," said Susie Brandt, his companion, who also said he had diverse interests. "He never wanted to be boring."


Mr. Marvit was known as much for his quick wit and hundreds of quirky ties as for his diplomatic ways and sharp mind.

A father with a doctorate in psychology and background in computer analysis and research, he worked for a contractor, ICF International, at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. Over the past two years, he assessed clinical trial results and worked on federal regulations for reporting clinical trials.


He had done research in hearing, and among his work in previous positions, he was involved in studies in sound perception that have contributed to hearing aid improvements.

Mr. Marvit was long dedicated to the Choral Arts Society, where he sang tenor, and devoted a significant amount of effort to including the city's poorer students in music study opportunities.

"He was an extremely happy, brilliant, musical type of guy," said Tom Hall, music director of the Choral Arts Society.

Mr. Hall described Mr. Marvit as a serious and experienced musician who brought "rock-solid" commitment and enthusiasm to rehearsals and performances.

He was a past board president of the Baltimore Talent Education Center, where, director Kelly A.J. Powers said, he guided the music program through a period when its funding from the city's schools ended and it shifted to obtain grants and foundation and private funding. He argued to offer access to music education no matter a student's resources and for an economic model to further that. He stayed on after his daughter, Nariko Marvit-Suyemoto, a viola student who is now 18, moved on to study music elsewhere.

Mr. Marvit's music interests were evident on the job, as was his humorous side.

"He was always singing. Anything after Bach was postmodern," said Didier Dipireux, with whom he did research from 2002 through 2006 at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Their techniques in ferret studies on differentiating sounds have been applied to hearing aids to improve sound clarity. "I still use the data acquisition programs that he wrote — I modified it," Mr. Dipireux said.

Mr. Dipireux said Mr. Marvit was precise in his work and was a "deep thinker" who was always in a good mood. One April Fool's Day, he meticulously wrapped Mr. Dipireux's office with aluminum foil.

His wide-ranging interests included visiting a variety of museums, from the Walters Art Museum to the National Museum of Dentistry. Ms. Brandt, a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, described him as a "farmers market devotee" whose favorites were the Saturday market on 33rd Street in Waverly and the Sunday one under the Jones Falls Expressway.

Mr. Marvit wed Pata Suyemoto, a teacher, in 1988. The couple's marriage lasted about six years, and they had one child. Ms. Suyemoto attributed their daughter's music skills to his guidance. She said he enjoyed the highbrow as well as the ordinary and was known to cook a gourmet dinner and top it off with marshmallow Peeps.

Born in Boston to Dr. Robert Marvit, a forensic psychiatrist, and Deborah Marvit, an artist, Peter Marvit grew up in Boston and New Hampshire. He played the French horn as a child.


He was a 1978 graduate of Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. He attended Oberlin College and left to pursue computer-related work, along with other interests.

Mr. Marvit worked for Hewlett-Packard Laboratories in Palo Alto, Calif., and in 1991 received a bachelor of arts in brain and cognitive sciences, with minors in English and music, from the University of California, Berkeley.

He continued his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a master of arts in 1992 in psychology. He was awarded a Ph.D. in psychology in 1999 from the University of Pennsylvania.

He remained at the university, where he continued research in perception and hearing, through 2001.

Mr. Marvit held a yearlong position at Northeastern University before becoming a postdoctoral fellow with Mr. Dipireux in Baltimore. In 2007, he moved to the University of Maryland, College Park, where his work included mentoring graduate students, studying what sounds birds can hear and differentiate, and managing a laboratory and its multimillion-dollar budget.

A private memorial service was held Thursday.

A family memorial service is being planned, Mr. Marvit's father said.

In addition to Mr. Marvit's companion, former wife, daughter and parents, survivors include his stepmother, Roben Marvit, of Honolulu; a brother, Jonathan Rockwood Hoar, of Portsmouth, N.H.; and a half-brother, Joshua Marvit, of Honolulu.

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