At the age of 6, John Perry sat down at the piano in his grandmother’s house. He said he had a good ear, so he was able to play Christmas carols. The melodies of “Joy To the World” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” which the young boy heard on the radio at the time, came ringing through his fingertips.
He considered playing piano or conducting as a career very early on as a child. When he was a teenager, he said, he realized there are many more good pianos out there than good orchestras.
“So I decided it was a better bet,” he laughed.
Eighty years later, Perry, now 86, has been inducted into the Steinway & Sons Teacher Hall of Fame.
“This is probably just the reward of many years of very great devotion to doing what I do,” Perry said. “When you love something and are devoted to it, you don’t think about the results, you think about the passion.”
Perry moved to Princeton five years ago when he was offered a position at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. He said it is good to be on the East Coast, right between New York and Philadelphia.
Perry originally hails from Minnesota. He met his wife Mina, who is from northern Japan, in Germany. She is also a pianist and they both taught private students together.
They lived in California for many decades.
“We are very, very happy to be in this community,” Perry said, noting that he established the John Perry Academy of Music in California, and hopes to open a center in Princeton soon.
“Preserving our vast, wonderful heritage in Western music has always motivated me to share, teach, give,” he said.
Perry has taught master classes and performed recitals in Canada, Poland, Germany, Italy, England, France, Japan, Korea, Australia, China and Taiwan – yet says his favorite country is still the United States.
And although prior to the coronavirus pandemic he would travel every two weeks, accumulating about 150,000 miles each year, Perry said once he can travel again, he intends to keep his home base in Princeton.
“I’m very, very happy for the honor. I am well known internationally as a pianist and teacher and I like to be a supporter of that. It’s nice that people in this area now know I’m here,” he said.
Perry earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Eastman School of Music where he was a student of Cecile Genhart, according to information provided by Steinway & Sons. During these summers, he worked with Frank Mannheimer.
He spent three years in Vienna, Austria, after receiving his university degrees.
“Having the opportunity to go back to where the music started, I found it had a profound influence on how I interpreted music, how I heard it, and how I played it,” he said.
Perry has won numerous awards, including the highest prizes in the Busoni and Viotti international piano competitions in Italy, and special honors at the Marguerite Long International Competition in Paris, according to the statement from Steinway.
Since then, he has performed extensively throughout Europe and North America.
Also, a chamber musician, Perry has collaborated with some of the finest instrumentalists in the world.
“Natural talent doesn’t do anything unless you are devoted and work hard,” Perry said.
2021 marks the second class of honorees from Steinway & Sons, following the Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 2019.
This fall, 44 teachers from the United States and Canada were inducted into the Steinway Teachers Hall of Fame with special events hosted at the historic Steinway factory in New York City. Each teacher inducted into the Hall of Fame was nominated by a Steinway & Sons showroom in the teacher’s home region.
Jacobs Music’s Steinway Selection Center in Princeton is home to the largest selection of new, pre-owned and authentically restored Steinway & Sons pianos on the East Coast.
“Mr. Perry is one of the most revered piano teachers in the world. I refer to him as ‘the teacher’s teacher’ as so many of the country’s top piano instructors, including Princeton’s own Ms. Ingrid Clarfield, studied with John. His career spans decades, but his legacy will last for generations through the many students he has mentored,” said Robert Rinaldi, who nominated Perry.
“The respect Mr. Perry receives from his peers is extraordinary. Even at the Steinway & Sons Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony nearly every other Hall of Fame teacher wanted to greet and take a photograph with Mr. Perry. Nearly every one studied with John, participated in one of his master classes or have vivid recollections of one of his performances.
“His accolades are astonishing and his record is exemplary. The Princeton area and Rutgers University are very lucky to have Mr. John Perry in our community. John’s wife Mina is also a very good teacher and an extraordinary performer,” Rinaldi said.
The teachers’ names are now displayed on a commemorative display wall inside the iconic factory.
“Music education has been a cornerstone of our historic company since the late 1800s and today is no different,” Gavin English, president of Steinway & Sons Americas, said in the statement.
“We are very proud to work with the talented music educators inducted this fall into the Steinway & Sons Teacher Hall of Fame. These teachers foster passion, creativity and discipline in the next generation of piano artists. Their work deserves the highest praise,” English said.
Contact Jennifer Amato at email@example.com