A New Movement for the Music Department
Chair, Music Department
Associate Professor of Theory and Composition
Interviewed by Adair Kibble
Professor Perera has joined the Andrews University Music Department Faculty this year as Chair. Among other positions, she has previously served as the Chair of the J. S. Bach Conservatory in Sagunto, Spain, and has taught at Oakwood University.
When did you know you wanted a career in music?
I started playing the piano when I was 5 and I loved it, but I loved playing by ear. I didn’t like practicing, so I quit. I think it’s that way with a lot of musicians—they love music, but they don’t like the methodology or the pieces they are forced to play. When I was 14 I wanted to play the piano seriously, and I studied at the Conservatory of Music. I finished my degree in music at 18.
Then I took a year off to be a missionary in Spain. That year, God showed me clearly that he wanted me to be a musician. I was 20 when I decided to be a career musician. I wanted to study theology as well, and I really wanted to connect music with theology. I published two books about music and worship, and it was a way for me to unite my love of theology and my love of music.
Where did you work before coming to Andrews?
I was at Oakwood University for 10 years teaching theory and composition. I had also been a chairperson for the music department in Spain. It was too much work because my kids were little. Being head of the music department in Spain involved a lot of performance and touring Europe, so I was out of my house a lot and my children were growing up without me. Then my husband received a job offer to go to Oakwood and I just wanted to be with them before they went to college. Now they are in college, so I think it’s the right time for me to be here. I think I can do it, and I love the opportunity.
Why did you choose to come to Andrews?
I have been coming to Andrews for 6 years as a guest speaker. Every time I was here and I saw the quality of the professionals in the music department, I would think, “I would love to be a part of this music department.” So when I was offered the job I said, “Yes! I love it!”
Do you have any special projects or goals for your first years as music department chair?
Yes, our first priority is recruitment. We need more students, both participating in music events, and more students majoring within the department. Our music students are not involved enough in music making on campus and we want that to be improved. Classic repertoire is good, but we want more presence in activities like campus ministry and the church.
Our second priority is more diversity. We want different music styles and genres. We want an inclusive music department in which every student will feel their story is listened to and is embraced.
The third priority is more involvement with the community. We are launching a music school in a prison in St. Joseph, hopefully within the next few months. We are already in a partnership with the state of Michigan to provide music lessons to children for free. At Andrews we have the privilege to make a real difference. The idea of music is to not limit what you can do. God gives us the promise that if you want to dream big, dream big and he will be with you. I don’t think we should limit what God can do.