Bringing music home | Daily News


 

Bringing music home

Growing up in a musical family in Moratuwa, a town deep rooted in music and arts, Dr. Priyeshni Peiris Perera possessed a strong affinity towards the universal language of Music. She took her love for the art form to great heights when she became the first and incidentally, the only Sri Lankan to hold a Doctorate in Musical Arts in Piano Pedagogy (Texas Tech University- USA) and the Fellowship of the Royal School of Music (UK). Dr Perera has gone on to achieve many honours and accolades across the globe.

“Some of my main piano performances include collaborations at the Music Teacher's National Association - USA in solo and two-piano works, invited lecture recital performance at the Conference of Musicology Society of Australia - a well-reputed international research conference in Australia- University of Western Australia, (Perth) and a lecture recital at the Yong Soh Toh Conservatory -National University of Singapore, one of the best Music universities in the world. I had the opportunity to present current research trends on thematic topics based on "The Importance of Biomechanical approaches to optimum piano performances by concert pianists"

“I am probably one of the few Sri Lankan concert pianists to be invited by the American Embassy and American Center to perform a Solo piano Guest artiste recital in Sri Lanka sponsored by the American embassy in Colombo.”

On her return to Sri Lanka, Dr. Perera founded the Prestantia School of Music where she endeavors to advance music education in Sri Lanka. Using her education and continuous research, her vision has been to reach children and youth who have not had the opportunity to learn music in a formal way. Her decision to set up a community music school in the suburban city of Moratuwa as opposed to Colombo where such an institute would be far more profitable, was in line with this vision of discovering talent through making formal music education accessible outside the capital city.

Dr. Perera,in addition to running her own Music school during the weekends, being a choral director, concert pianist and researcher is currently a Senior lecturer of the Western Music Department at the University of Visual and Performing Arts.

Positive impact

“As a lecturer, I have been able to teach students who come from every part of the country. Following their graduation they go on to teach music in their local public schools systems. This is a great way I feel I have been able to impart my knowledge in a small way in working towards my vision and make a positive impact to foster music education in youth and children.”

When questioned about unique experiences and achievements that shaped her successful music career, Dr. Perera said:

“First of all I am indebted to my parents, teachers, Ms. Shyamani De Silva, Ms. Joy Ferdinando, the Late Ms. Vilma Varnakulasinghe, MsPriyani Fernando (Former Principal, Methodist College) who supported me in my musical journey when I was in Sri Lanka. Then my deepest gratitude goes to all my professors of international repute; Dr Robert Groves, Dr. David Northington, Dr. Lora Deahl, Dr. Carla Cash, Dr. William Westney and Dr Janice Killian, whom I had the honor of studying. They guided me with so much love and passion as their own. I feel blessed to have had an excellent education and a well-rounded professional training in USA, specifically in Piano performance and Pedagogy. My Bachelor's degree was in Music - Piano andbusiness management while my Master's and Doctorate was in Piano Performance and Pedagogy. I was blessed with fully funded scholarships and endowments from the University of Tennessee, North Dakota State University and Texas Tech University, USA, where I was awarded the AT&T Chancellor's Fellowship for outstanding academic and professional achievement and the Texas Tech President Horn Fellowship for outstanding Women in academia at Texas Tech University. (USA).”

Although a highly acclaimed choral director, Dr. Perera shares that this was not really her intention at the onset of her musical journey.

“Choral directing was not an intended field of study when I studied music at master's or doctoral levels. However, I have always sung in my school choir since Kindergarten, led and directed church choirs when I was just 15 years as an organist along with my mother.”

Choral conductors

“I had fortunately taken some formal training in choral conducting with Professor Micheal Webber and Professor Jo Ann Miller, who are well reputed choral conductors in North America and Europe. Under their supervision I had opportunities to lead the University Chorus performances in USA while I was studying for the Bachelor's degree in Music. This knowledge led me to take my newly formed choirs - Prestantia Children's Choir (established in 2017) and the Senior Choir- Prestantia Chorale (estb. 2013) to win two high ranked Gold Medals and a championship trophy at the Asia Pacific Choir Games in 2017. This was our debut performance at any sort of competition in choral singing. This ranks as one of the important achievements I brought to Sri Lanka as a choral director.”

“The international ranking of Prestantia Music School Junior (Children's) choir as a top children’s choir by Interkultur in the world paved the way forward to perform at "The International Children's Choral Festival" in China on an invited performance from the Chinese Government and the Chinese Chorus Association to perform in the Cultural Exchange program with seven other developed countries - Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Germany, South Korea, France and China. "Prestantia Junior (Children's) Choir" was the only children's choir invited with full sponsorship from South Asia and the only 'developing country’ to attend. I was glad that we were able to fly high the Flag of Sri Lanka, to show the world that our little teardrop island can do great things in a positive way.”

Dr. Perera enjoys working with adults, youth and children, but of course she has her favourites!

“Totally different approaches must be used for each group. However, I feel that it is much more fulfilling to teach children. In my experience, they are open to learning and trying out new things. They are full of energy and always burst with joy..... which is contagious especially in a choral setting and makes our learning much more fun and rewarding”

Therapeutic effects

On the topic of children, it must be noted that her current research is focused on the therapeutic effects of Music on the brain, with emphasis on children with Special needs, such as Autism and learning disorders in Sri Lanka. Part of this research was presented at the American Music Therapy Association Conference” held in Dallas, Texas. She hopes with her ongoing research work in this area, that caregivers of children with special needs will be better equipped to help improve the quality of life with music,in this relatively ignored segment.

Clearing a path and building roads for a generation of accomplished musicians, Dr. Perera is a firm believer in diligence and hard work.

“I believe that perseverance with intelligence will help you achieve things beyond your boundaries.”

To aspiring young musicians she says: “Have a passion for learning and never stop learning and experiment new things. Conquer all challenges with determination and you will achieve things that you never thought were possible.”


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