photo by Terry Johnston
GRS President Peter Perez and his wife Carroll at Symphony Noir
Five Questions for Peter Perez
by Christine Golden - GRS Violin
Recently symphony violinist Christine Golden set out to get to know better our new Grand Rapids Symphony President and CEO Peter Perez.
You obviously have a passion for symphonic music. How did this develop in you, and what experiences as you were growing up helped it to grow? (Is it true that you played viola in school?)
I played the piano and - - - yes - - - the viola (GO VIOLAS!!!) in elementary and middle school. I conducted one number at the equivalent of our Picnic Pops one summer which, as you can imagine, made my parents very, very proud.
During your long career in business, you've served as president of two famous musical instrument manufacturers: C.G. Conn, and Steinway and Sons. How do the skills you developed overseeing these companies help you now as chief executive of a symphony orchestra?
Whether musical instrument manufacturing companies such as C. G. Conn or Steinway & Sons - - - or a great orchestra like the Grand Rapids Symphony, it is all about people and motivating them to reach their full potential. My career has taken me so many places including serving as a U.S. Naval officer right out of college and later in life as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing in the United States government. It is my belief that the motto “Service above Self” is a good guide to life. It helps that my wife Carroll supports me in all I do. She is amazing and I am so lucky to have her as my life partner these past 54 years. We have known each other since we were 5 years old. We both grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, at that time the band instrument capital of the world.
What motivated you to leave retirement behind and take on the job of President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Symphony?
I never have retired. I am Chairman of our family company, Carter Products located in Walker and founded in Grand Rapids in 1929. We manufacture accessory products for industry and amateur woodworkers. Go to www.carterproducts.com to see the amazing array of accessories that make manufacturing companies more productive and amateur woodworkers more successful with their projects. My son Lee is President and runs the business day to day, but I stop in each week or on weekends to checks orders and sales. In addition, I am Vice Chairman of Legacy Trust, a Michigan wealth management bank located in Grand Rapids and on the investment advisory committee of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. I also am honored to serve as a director of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) in Washington, DC. I do not know what that word “retirement” means?
If you can remember what it is like to have spare time, what hobbies would you enjoy if you had some?
Again, please define “spare time”? Seriously, though, when I do take a break, I enjoy gardening. When we built our “dream house” in Ada, after living in and remodeling 11 earlier homes, we included a working greenhouse so I amaze myself by growing orchids and other flowers. As for future spare time, Carroll and I have traveled the world, but there still are a few places we hope to visit and check them off our bucket list.
How can the musicians of the symphony be helpful to you in your new position?
The musicians are helpful every concert with their spectacular performances. You are “the stars” and Grand Rapids is fortunate to have what I now refer to as a “constellation of stars” - - - meaning the orchestra and chorus. I was reminded of that yesterday when Jenna Anderson (violin) and Mark Buchner (bass) performed so amazingly at the Legacy of Excellence Endowment Fund annual luncheon - - - or when I enjoy Jamie Crawford, Eric Tanner, Leslie VanBecker, Alicia Eppinga, Chris Kantner, Ellen Sherman and others at Liebestraum, - - - or I see third graders captivated by Bill Vits percussion performances - - - or at Fifth Grade Concerts conducted by John Varineau- - - or at any number of Classical, Pops and Symphonic Boom concerts. The dedication and excellence of our musicians inspires me and so many others in our community. So, all the musicians help me by regularly touching my soul with your incredible performances.
photo by Terry Johnston