EDITOR’S NOTE: Naturally, all of us at Broome Arts Mirror are very excited about the upcoming Heart of the Arts celebration on Sept. 19. To help you join in on the excitement, BAMirror, over the next couple of weeks, will be featuring brief Q&As with our honorees. We start today with Lifetime Achievement Award winner Dr. Timothy G. Perry. HOTA Lifetime Achievement Awards recognize individuals who have had a significant long-term impact in the arts in Broome County. These individuals are chosen by the BCAC Board of Directors after a careful nomination process. (Coming Sept 10: HOTA winner Margaret “Peg” Johnston.)
By Barb Van Atta
To quote his nomination form, Tim Perry is “a local treasure.” He has just completed his 30th year at Binghamton University, where he is Director of Orchestral Activities and Instrumental Conducting and Professor of Studio Clarinet. He is active throughout the world as a soloist, chamber musician and teacher and, along with pianist Pej Reitz, his frequent collaborator, he served as a U.S. State Department cultural ambassador, performing throughout South America.
But while citing all of Tim’s PROFESSIONAL accomplishments, his nominators chose to focus on his dedication to the AMATEUR musicians of Broome County. From 1994 to 2004 and again from 2013 through the present, Perry has directed the Binghamton Community Orchestra.
Said one nominator, a string player: “He’s brought the BCO from a reasonably good amateur orchestra to a whole new level — still a group of musicians who get together to make music just for the love of it, but also performing at a level on par with many professional orchestras. … He inspires musicians to play better than they ever dreamed possible.”
These remarks were seconded by another nominator associated with the BCO: “His manner of conducting rehearsals is professional, yet understanding that most of the members are engaged in this activity for their enjoyment and not as a means of making a living. …
“I cannot think of a person,” the nominator continued, “more devoted to the performance and study of music than Tim Perry.
Through email, BAMirror asked Perry the following questions:
What was your reaction when you learned that you were chosen as the 2016 HOTA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient?
“Three stages, I’d say. Confusion, because of course I didn’t know that I had even been nominated, then a bit of shock as it sank in and finally a wave of gratitude for being considered, much less awarded. This is a small club composed of people whom I have long known and utterly respected!”
Who or what started you on music? Was it always the clarinet? When you were a child or a student, where did you see yourself ending up?
Definitely my parents. My father was a professional jazz saxophonist who fronted his own swing band in La Crosse, Wis., during his teens in the late 1940s, but also dabbled in the oboe, even subbing in the Twin Cities Symphony (now the Minnesota Orchestra) under (Dimitri) Mitropoulos. As kids, we fell asleep to either jazz or classical music played every evening on the living room radio.
I actually wanted to start on the oboe, but that was a very expensive instrument so I began on my mom’s clarinet, instead. I loved it from day one. I also loved watching Leonard Bernstein’s children’s concerts.
I was intrigued by the conducting, but my passion for conducting didn’t flower until college. My dream (like many a young clarinetist) was to grow up and succeed Stanley Drucker in the New York Philharmonic. Little did I think that Stanley would stay in that chair for over 50 years, retiring just a few years ago. I love classic jazz, but I’d have to say I never had my father’s gift for the art. Many of my teachers have been role models, and eventually I chose a blended career of teaching and performing.
What are you most proud of in your professional career?
Since overweening pride is a sin — one which tempts conductors, in particular — I’ll say that I take the greatest satisfaction as a teacher in those several thousand students I’ve been privileged to instruct, particularly the many who continue to make instrumental music a part of their lives while pursuing successful careers in every conceivable profession and location.
As a performer, the high points took place in any number of recitals, but even more in some notably memorable artistic collaborations: the Anderson Center’s Scottish Festival, where 500 souls braved a huge blizzard to hear the BU Symphony and members of the Binghamton Phil perform with members of the Scottish Ballet and composer James MacMillan; the BU and Binghamton Community Orchestra doing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring together; and the two amazing collaborations with the Paul Taylor Dance Company.
You have many points of influence in the local musical community, but you were nominated primarily for your work with the Binghamton Community Orchestra. What has been special or different about your work with that group?
A healthy and vibrant community needs a healthy and vibrant arts community of artists as creators, interpreters and audience members. Having a body of spectators for outside performing groups is nice, but it’s not enough for true community health. And it doesn’t just happen — my native Wisconsin is still impoverished in this respect. It takes the special commitment of dedicated community members to make arts organizations flower and grow at the community level, and the BCO is an excellent model of the best in amateur — in its true sense of “dedicated lover of” and not of “less than professional” — music making.
I adore this particular orchestra and the special people who give so much to be part of it. I’ve never had as much fun with any ensemble in my career. They inspire me constantly, though they seem to have a penchant to bring out some of the more weird and comedic aspects of my personality. They fill a vital niche in the garden of the arts which we can all enjoy here.
Your musical career in Broome County has spanned several decades. What changes have you seen as a professional in the local arts community?
Overall, Binghamton should be very proud of its arts scene. I’d like to see it promoted more effectively in drawing people and business to our community. It’s a never-ending struggle to maintain large arts organizations such as symphonies, opera companies, ballet, theater groups, museums and libraries, (the last of which I include as a major organization for their role in promoting literacy, poetry and literature). New people have to be ready and willing to take over for founding visionaries as they pass on their vision to younger but equally passionate arts supporters.
First Friday has had a great effect downtown. It’s exciting to see the number of newer theater groups springing up and broadening the types of productions we can see. We have added many outstanding art galleries in Binghamton. It’s enriched my life and provided food for the mind and spirit. We all need that food for the brain and the soul — it makes us better people, and the arts build a better community in every respect.
Remember, the Heart of the Arts Ceremony, celebrating the movers, creators and lovers of the arts in Broome County, will be 6 p.m. Sept. 19 in the grand ballroom of the DoubleTree by Hilton, 245 Water St., Binghamton. The gala event will feature dinner, performances and art displays. For tickets and more information about both the celebration and the HOTA art raffle, visit www.broomearts.org/hota.