Bruce Perryman, who served as Hauser Junior High’s “Mr. Holland” for three decades, passed away on Oct. 15, 2001 but his legacy in music education continues.
His daughter, Elizabeth, teaches music in North Brunswick, N.J., and performs in opera productions in New York. Closer to home, Bruce’s wife, Janet, has her daughter’s former roommate, Maria Carini, living with her in Riverside.
Carini not only teaches music in Forest Park, she’s an opera singer in her own right and is currently starring in a production of The Pirates of Penzance in Evanston.
Staging Gilbert & Sullivan operettas was a long tradition at Hauser Junior High. Perryman’s predecessor and mentor, Robert Sheehan, rotated their four most-famous works in lavish student productions.
After Sheehan retired in 1972, Perryman mounted productions of the Gilbert & Sullivan classics for the next 20 years.
“They were full-scale, almost uncut shows, with double casts,” Janet Perryman recalled.
Students returned years later and told Bruce that being in his productions had been their most memorable experience from junior high.
“Some even told him that they had lost their score and wanted him to reorder it for them,” Janet said.
Besides the operettas, Perryman also inherited the school’s Madrigal Choir. At its height, Perryman had 78 boys performing Sheehan-arranged carols at Christmastime.
Before she married Bruce at age 22, Janet had been a longtime Riverside resident, whose parents built a house on Arlington Road in 1942.
She attended Ames School and Riverside-Brookfield High School and went on to Northwestern University for her degree in music education. Janet grew up as a shy only child but had a wonderful singing voice.
Her singing certainly came in handy in 1961, when she was part of a college a cappella choir for a concert tour of New York. During their off hours, Janet went sightseeing with one of the choir members, a redheaded graduate student. Bruce was a baritone and Janet a soprano, and they went on to make beautiful harmonies together for the next 40 years.
After their marriage in 1962, Bruce landed jobs teaching voice in the north suburbs, while Janet became the music teacher for the Lyons school district. She continued teaching in Lyons for four years until her son, Neal, was born. Meanwhile, Bruce had returned to DePaul to get his music education degree and, thanks to Sheehan, landed a job closer to home.
“Bruce loved all the grade levels,” Janet said, “not just junior high.”
He was also a kid at heart, donning fright wigs for the school’s Halloween sing-a-longs. He didn’t have any fear of physical labor, helping his students build sets for the summer musicals.
In addition to his teaching at Hauser, Perryman directed several church choirs for 33 years. He loved the classic hymns and composed anthems for the choir.
Perryman’s retirement party at Hauser was certainly a “Mr. Holland” moment. Liz Perryman directed the choir in singing the songs her father used to teach. Neal, his wife, Ann, and their three sons surprised him by coming in from St. Louis.
“Bruce loved retirement,” Janet said, but it turned out to be very brief. A lifelong learner, Bruce was perfecting his technique on the organ at Ascension Lutheran Church, when he collapsed. He was only 63.
Her husband’s death was a devastating blow to Janet, but the formerly shy singer continued performing with The Profiles, a women’s singing group she’s directed for the past 35 years.
“We all dress alike, with hats and boas and sing for churches and retired groups,” Janet said. The seven singers rehearse in River Forest and perform about 12 gigs a year. They even tap dance.
Besides staying busy with her singing friends, Janet plays bridge three times a week and directs her husband’s former choir at Bethel Lutheran Church in Westmont. More importantly, she found a good roommate to keep her spirits up.
Six years ago, Carini, who had roomed with Liz Perryman at Louisiana State University for two years, landed a music teaching job in Forest Park. The woman who interviewed her, Donna Budil, had been a student of Perryman’s.
When Budil was looking for candidates when Liz called to tell her the perfect teacher was sharing her dorm room.
Carini drove a U-Haul containing her life’s possessions to Riverside. She unloaded her boxes in Perryman’s garage, while she hunted for an apartment. To her great relief, Janet invited her to move in and the two have gotten along famously ever since.
“She’s a great girl with a sweet personality,” Janet said.
Carini came by her operatic roots honestly-her opera buff parents are from Sicily and her father serenades restaurant patrons with his accordion. When she was young, Maria would have her dad make up melodies on the piano.
“I would use a turkey baster as a microphone and make up a song,” Carini said, “I always knew I’d be in opera. It’s more challenging than any other singing. You have to be very disciplined.”
Somehow, Maria failed to learn Italian growing up but she has taken diction classes for singing in German, Italian and French. She is a lyric coloratura, excelling in parts that require a very high voice and fast phrasing. Her favorite opera is La Traviata but she’s also appeared in The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus and The Magic Flute.
This weekend audiences can enjoy Carini’s coloratura as she sings the part of Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance on Oct. 16 and 18 at Evanston’s Chute Auditorium, 1400 Oakton St.
Tickets can be ordered by calling 847-251-8767.