Arts & Entertainment and Human Resources

Symphony leader sounds final note

August 17, 2018
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Peter Perez
Peter Perez. Courtesy Grand Rapids Symphony/Terry Johnston

The Grand Rapids Symphony will be saying goodbye to one of its own.

Peter M. Perez, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Symphony, will be retiring on Dec. 31.

He was the first person in the history of the symphony to serve as the board chair and president and CEO in separate terms.

Perez took on the role of president in 2017 after the former president, Peter Kjome, left the orchestra. During his time as president, Perez was instrumental in leading the symphony to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in April of this year.

The Indiana native was elected to serve as board chair from 2013-15. The orchestra drew more than 7,100 people to Van Andel Arena in 2015 during LiveArts, a multimedia, multi-genre extravaganza.

Under Perez’s leadership, the symphony hired Bob Bernhardt as principal pops conductor in 2015 and Marcelo Lehninger was named music director in 2016.

Perez served four years as co-chair of the Legacy of Excellence Campaign while he was a member of the board. The board reached its $40-million goal in April 2016 in cash gifts, pledges and estate planning bequests to build a permanent endowment for the orchestra.

Prior to his tenure with the symphony, Perez also served as president of C.G. Conn, a manufacturer of band instruments, and of Steinway & Sons, the world-famous maker of pianos. Perez said it’s been an honor to serve as president of the Grand Rapids Symphony.

“My life has been filled with extraordinary opportunities, including leading two world-renowned companies that manufacture musical instruments,” said Perez, 78. “For the past two years, I have come full circle, leading this incredible symphony that is filled with musicians of the highest caliber that live and work in our community, performing not only in concert halls, but also in schools throughout West Michigan. Grand Rapids is so fortunate to have this Grammy-nominated orchestra.”

“My wife and I are in the fourth quarter of life,” he added. “While I have enjoyed the unique opportunity to lead this fine organization, I know that it is time for younger leadership to take the Grand Rapids Symphony on a journey to even greater accomplishments.”

Perez is a retired U.S. Navy officer. He also served as a deputy assistant secretary of manufacturing in the U.S. Department of Commerce from 2010-2012.

Perez and his wife became owners of Carter Products, a family-owned business producing accessory equipment for the industrial woodworking machinery industry. Their son, Lee Perez, is president of Carter Products.

The Grand Rapids Symphony is actively searching for his successor.

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