Adriana Perera, chair of the Andrews University department of music and associate professor of theory and composition, is a pianist and composer. She is an active musician who has composed over 200 sacred works which are performed frequently around the world. She has taught music at the high school and collegiate levels for over twenty years.
Adriana was born and raised in Uruguay on March 31, 1970, one of two daughters of Jose and Wilda Larrarte de Perera. She was raised in a home surrounded by music. Her father was an amateur musician with a rich baritone voice who sang often in a male quartet and in Camerata, a vocal ensemble at the Instituto Adventista del Uruguay.
She started piano lessons with Nair de Perera at age six and entered the Vittoria Schennini Conservatory two years later. She would subsequently study recorder and marimba with Leticia Freire and classical guitar at twelve with Maria Perezat. She later related how she developed her ability to memorize music and improvise:
When I was about to turn twelve, I asked my father to buy me a bike for my birthday, and he said he would, if I memorized the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal - so I did! I will never forget that March 31st, when I sat in front of the piano, at home, and dad selected some hymns... I had to play all of them by memory. When I finished, there was a bike waiting for me in the garden!
My father did that so I could be a piano accompanist at my local church. I was timid and he thought that if I learned all the hymns by memory, I would become more confident when I played in public. That experience was fantastic, because I gained confidence, and from that moment I decided to memorize everything before I played in public. When I was 13, I was accompanying the high school choir, the church chorale, and my father's quartet.
Leticia Freire, our music teacher in middle school, was the person who nurtured my passion for music. She organized musical theatre events, in which we had to create melodies, design costumes, invent instruments, learn to play ethnic instruments that she owned, and so much more. We met and practiced three times a week in her home. She had been a missionary in the Amazon, where she had collected indigenous and world instruments, which she displayed in her living room. After the rehearsal time, she always had some hot chocolate or lemonade,
We loved to hear her stories about life, music, ministry, and a young, revolutionary, creative Jesus. I also discovered my passion for composition with her. She encouraged me to play by ear when she realized I had a gift for improvising. She would give me three notes, and then let me play the marimba, recorder, piano, or whatever instrument she had at hand to create a musical piece. She loved jazz and introduced me to both it and classical music. I was totally amazed by her love for people and music, in that order.
Adriana completed elementary, middle school, and two years of high school, including the middle school music experience, at Instituto Adventista del Uruguay. She completed high school at Instituto Adventista del Plata in Argentina in 1986. During her high school years, she had taken college classes, and two years after graduating from high school she received a B.Mus. in piano performance and music education from IAP.
In 1989 she moved to Spain and pursued a master's degree in piano performance and accompanying at Conservatorio Joaquin Rodrigo, Valencia. Following completion of her study there, she earned a master's degree in theory and solfege at the Conservatorio Superior de Valencia in 2001. She also studied orchestra and band conducting with maestro Ferran Ferrer at the Allegro School of Music.
During these years in Spain, Perera taught high school music at the Colegio Adventista de Sagunto, gave piano lessons from 1989 to 1997, and conducted the vocal ensemble Amanecer from 1990 to 1997. In 1997 she took first prize as "Best Choir Conductor" in the Certamen de Villancicos Choral Competition. From 2000 to 2006, she conducted the CAS chorale and served as the Conservatorio J. S. Bach chairperson and choir director, professor in piano and solfege, and composer in residence for the J. S. Bach orchestra.
In 2006, when her family moved to the U.S., Perera continued her education at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. She graduated summa cum laude in 2009 with an M.Mus. in music composition, having studied with Bryan Clark, William Pursell, and Paul Godwin. She is currently completing doctoral studies for a D.M.A. in music composition at the Universidad Catolica de Argentina.
From 2006 to 2008, she worked at Oakwood University as an accompanist and teacher of accompanying and piano. From 2008 to 2017 she held the rank of associate professor at OU, where she taught theory and composition. She became chair of the department of music at Andrews University in 2017
Perera continues to perform as a pianist, doing a live recording for 3ABN in 2009 and giving a recital in 2010 that featured music by J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Granados, and a composition of her own for violin and piano. Proceeds from her album, Canta Comigo, a Project from Children to Children, were used by Spain's ADRA to provide running water for children in Peru. This album and project earned her the 2000 ADRA award for Best Solidarity Project.
She is a prolific composer and is the recipient of numerous commissions. Perera's writings have included three religious musical comedies: Bascule (2000), La Promesa (2002), and Jesus, Version Original (2004); fifty songs for soloist and piano; fourteen children's songs; five sacred works for SATB choir and piano; an oratorio, Crossing Point, and other chamber music works.
Some of her writings are included in the SDA Spanish hymnal, Bienvendos a Ador, and in the Portuguese youth hymnal, Louvor e Adoraco. She also penned the 2007 and 2010 theme songs, Love Care and Serve and Win the Race, for the SDA General Conference Youth Department. In January 2012, her work, Psalm 146, for SATB choir and organ/piano, was the winner of the Huntsville New Music Festival. The Oakwood University Choir, directed by Jason Max Ferdinand, premiered it during the festival.
Perera has published several articles and two books on music and worship: En Espiritu y en verdad (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2013) and More than Music: Worship (Biblio Publishing, 2017).She is interested in research related the African American legacy in music and its influence on contemporary choral music.
Perera has been married to Francisco Burgos, a baritone and assistant professor in the department of religion and Biblical languages at AU, since 1993. They have two children, Laia and Marcos, who play violin and flute, respectively.
Sources: IAMA Biography Information form completed by Adriana Perera, May 2011; Brief biography by Perera; Southern Tidings, July 2009, 22; email, February 2012; Michele Solomon, “President’s Spring Message Sets Stage for New Musical Composition,” Southern Tidings, July 2009, pgs. 22, 23; “New Department of Music Chair,” AU Focus, Summer 2017, pg. 11; AU faculty listings, 2017.
Music by Adriana Perera
A Partial Listing
Certamen de Villancicios Written for a choral competition (first prize) 1997
Canto Conmigo.Children for Children Written and recorded for use by ADRA, Spain, proceeds provided running water for children in Peru, 2000
Buscale A religious musical comedy for SATB choir, piano, and orchestra, 2000
La Promesa A religious musical comedy for SATB choir, piano, and orchestra, 2002
Jesus, Version Original A religious musical comedy for SATB choir, piano, and orchestra, 2004
Love, Care, and Serve Theme song for SDA General Conference Youth Department, 2007
Crossing Point Oratorio for SATB choir, organ, piano, and chamber orchestra, 2008
Win the Race Theme song for SDA General Conference Youth Department, 2010
From the Inside percussion ensemble
Sur Uruguayan folk song for guitar, piano, alto saxophone, maracas, and claves y bongos
Viejo Cedro Mezzo soprano, flute, bongos, and guitar
Other writings include fifty songs for vocalist and piano, fourteen childrens songs, five sacred works for SATB choir and piano, and others. Some of her music is included in Bienvenido a Adorar, SDA hymnal for the Spaniard Conference and in Louvor e Adoracao, the Portuguese youth hymnal.
Instrumento de Paz 1995
Canta Conmigo 1998