John MacIvor Perkins, 75

Professor emeritus in the Department of Music

Composer and pianist John MacIvor Perkins, professor emeritus in the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences, died Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, at Barnes-Jewish Extended Care of complications from liver cancer and kidney failure. He was 75.


Born Aug. 2, 1935, in St. Louis, Perkins graduated from John Burroughs School in 1953 and in 1958 earned both a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard University and a bachelor of music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music.

In 1962, Perkins earned a master of fine arts degree from Brandeis University. He spent several years on faculty at the University of Chicago, but, in 1965, he returned to Harvard, where he taught for the next five years.

Perkins came to Washington University in 1970 as an associate professor of music, and he also served as chair of music until 1976. His scholarly interests ranged from 20th-century serial music and rhythmic notation to the works of composers Igor Stravinsky, Anton Webern and Luigi Dallapiccola.

Perkin’s own compositions include approximately three dozen works, ranging from one-act operas and songs for voice and piano to various compositions for orchestra, chorus, chamber groups and solo piano.

His numerous honors included a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship and the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters Award as well as commissions from Harvard’s Fromm Music Foundation, the New Music Circle of St. Louis, concert pianist Easley Blackwood and the Smithsonian Institution, among others.

Perkins retired in 2001, though he continued to teach composition and counterpoint tutorials. To mark his retirement, the Department of Music hosted a concert “Celebrating the Music of John MacIvor Perkins” in Edison Theatre. More recently, the Washington University Symphony Orchestra premiered a new work by Perkins, After and Before, as part of its 2004 Chancellor’s Concert.

Perkins is survived by three sons — Jonathan Perkins of Springfield, Ill.; Andrew Perkins of Berkeley, Calif.; and Benjamin Rain of Eugene, Ore. — and by four grandchildren: Emma Rain, Leo Rain, Benjamin Perkins and Ethan Perkins.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, in the Recital Hall of the 560 Music Center, located in University City at 560 Trinity Ave. A reception will be held immediately afterward in the Music Center’s Dual Piano Room. For more information, call (314) 935-5566.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the charity of the donor’s choice.

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