Anna Lisette Perez Deemer
Lisette Deemer, a singer, voice teacher, and choir director, has taught music in the Seventh-day Adventist school system for nearly thirty years, most of those at one school. She is also active as a choral clinician, accompanist, and occasional soloist for local events.
Lisette was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, one of four children of Eli and Estela Perez Morell, who came to Lincoln from Antillian Union College in Cuba in 1959 to study at Union College. Lisette's great-grandfather, August Emil Doering taught German at Union College and then was secretary of the North Dakota Conference before he and his family moved to Cuba in 1909, because of his ongoing health problems.
Music was an important part of life in the Perez home, parents having sung in choirs while attending college and Estela being an accomplished singer who started Lisette on piano. She later recalled her first studies outside the home:
My first piano lessons were from Marguerite Woodruff Widener, who charged a dollar a lesson. I sometimes had my lesson before school in the morning and then she would drive me to school in her old car, known as the "Blue Bomber." In order to select drive, neutral, reverse, you had to push a button on the dashboard! Very cool! She would not pass you to the next piano piece unless you also colored the picture in your John Thompson piano book. If you did it all just right, you got your sticker and passed to the next piece! We worked together about three years.
In high school, I studied piano under Florence Kitching. She was a kind and an outstanding piano teacher. She introduced me to music theory and with that deeper look at music she changed my life forever. My love of music theory began at a card table in her living room.
After she graduated from Lincoln Southeast High School in 1977, Lisette enrolled at Union College as a biology major then later switched to nursing. Still uncertain about nursing, she served as a student missionary in Busan, Korea. That experience helped her decide to major in music upon returning to the U.S. in 1980:
On weekends we held evangelistic meetings. I was fully in my element: singing and playing piano! When I returned to Union, I was sure God wanted me to pursue music, so I changed my major. I studied voice with Marge Fuller and later Lynn Wickham. In 1983, I graduated with a B.Mus.Ed, broad field endorsement, K-12, with a vocal and choral emphasis.
I th en enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to study vocal performance with Donna Harler-Smith and choral conducting with Ginger Calkins. I graduated in 1985 with a Master of Music in vocal performance and choral conducting.
While doing graduate work, Perez was an adjunct voice teacher at Union College. Following graduation in 1985, she continued to teach voice at UC and was hired to teach music at nearby College View Academy, positions she has held to the present. In 1988, she married Gary L. Deemer, a trumpet player with many musical interests. During this time, she sang professionally in many Lincoln church choirs and directed the choir at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ for several years before the birth of her first son.
From the beginning, Lisette’s students noticed her dedication and total involvement with them, which led to a highly successful program and popular groups noted for their achievements. Her choirs have been successful in a number of competitions, and in 2005 her choir was chosen to perform at the Nebraska Music Educators Convention.
Additionally, she has produced several successful benefit concerts that included elementary through college level school ensembles and performers, community professional groups, and civic leaders. These programs raised thousands of dollars for victims of the 2004 Tsunami and 2010 hurricane in Haiti. Yet another concert, an SOS (Save Our School) program, directly benefited the academy. These programs, which were given in the College View Church, drew attendees from all of the Lincoln community and filled the sanctuary.
In the past 26 years Deemer has been a guest conductor at a number of elementary music festivals in the Mid-America Union and Florida Conferences of SDAs. For most of those years she also enjoyed singing in Trans4mation, a trio, performing in the U.S. and in Toronto, Canada, for a North American Division Women’s Ministries Convention. In 2008 she was invited to direct the Lincoln Public Schools All City 8th Grade Honor Choir.
In 2009 the editors of the CVA yearbook, The Sower, acknowledged her contribution at the academy and paid an extended tribute to her for the role she has played in students' lives:
Dear Mrs. Deemer,
It's hard to believe how long you've been impacting our lives. With many of us starting with you in 5th grade and over half the school in choir this year, it's easy to see how much you touch all of our lives here at CVA.
People always comment about the amazing music you can bring out of us. Students who didn't think they could even carry a tune find that they have music in them after all. Who knows what the secret ingredient in your cookies is to inspire us so much: or maybe it's your belief in our potential.
You may not know it, but we notice the countless hours you spend making costumes, practicing lines, and giving up your sleep to make the musical a success. Even after the musical is over, you're on to the next thing - like planning a musical revue or a fun-filled choir tour. You're always so busy! You don't even have time to eat - sneaking lunch between your many classes or the voice lessons you manage to fit into your crazy day. Somehow among all the chaos, you manage to stay sane and instill the love of music in us that stays with us long after high school. We know all of us seniors can't imagine music without you.
Everyone knows that choir isn't just about singing - it's about life! Aside from all the life lessons in choir, you've also taught us how to wash dishes and make mashed potatoes in Independent Living class. We can't believe how brave you are letting us near the stoves and sewing machines. Surprisingly, we didn't destroy anything - and you always found some way of complimenting us. That's just the mom in you - you always take care of us, like your corn packs and lying on the couch in the choir room. Not only do you take care of us, your "kids" here at school, but you have two great gentlemen of your own.
We're running out of room, and there's still much more to say: like NHS, your cool duct tape creations, and millions of hot dogs on Fridays. This year especially, when you've been going through so much [her mother had died shortly after Christmas after a long bout with cancer], you've remained strong and kept sharing your faith in God with us. We wanted to try to express in this small way how much you mean to all of us.
We love you!
Yet another page in the yearbook consisted of paragraphs pieced together from one-sentence comments made by many students about their relationship with her. She was praised for her patience, sense of humor, inspiration, creativity, and passion for music. One student observed she was like having an empathetic and kind-hearted mother at school who cared deeply about them.
The Deemers have two sons, David and Jonathan, who are active in church, school, music, and sports.
Sources: Information provided by Lisette Deemer, September 2011 and February 2012; The Educational Messenger, 10 June 1909, 8; The Inter-American Division Messenger, December 1943, 10, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 27 April 1916, 14; 17 June 1943, 23; personal knowledge.