Remembering Margaret Perry, Founder of Austin's Armstrong Community Music School

Margaret Perry, founding director of Armstrong Community Music School (ACMS), former Guild trustee, and beloved member of the National Guild community, passed away on Thursday, April 5th, 2018. Margaret stepped down from her position at ACMS after learning of a cancer diagnosis and, according to ACMS, she “dealt with her treatment and final stages with grace, honesty, humor, and a depth of courage that was miraculous to witness.”

Margaret Perry was a music educator for 38 years. Trained originally as a harpsichordist, Margaret performed with Baroque music groups around Texas, and served for several years as the pianist for the Houston Ballet. Margaret taught music in both public and private schools in the U.S. and Europe, and maintained a private piano teaching practice in Austin for more than three decades. She lectured extensively on the lives of composers and opera history for both children’s classes and adult opera audiences, and created curricula for general musical studies for many ages.

Margaret was a trustee for nine non-profit boards in the Austin area, and was elected chairman of three of these. She served for six years on the board of trustees for the National Guild. She served as a trustee for Austin Classical Guitar and La Follia, and served in an advisory capacity for KMFA, Creative Action Project, Chamber Music in Public Schools (CHAMPS), and the Physics Advisory Board at the University of Texas.

In April of 2000, she became the founding director of the Armstrong Community Music School, the first music school in the world to be established by an opera company, after serving as the director of education of Austin Lyric Opera for eighteen years. In March of 2003, the city of Austin presented Margaret a Community Service Award, and the same year the State of Texas declared a day in her honor for thirty years of arts advocacy and education. In 2010, Margaret was given a “Profiles in Power: Women of Influence” award by the Austin Business Journal.

Margaret and the National Guild

In 2012, the Guild presented Margaret with the National Guild Service Award, in recognition of her remarkable service to the Austin arts community and the National Guild board of trustees. In her acceptance speech, she spoke about the importance of finding a national community as she moved into her role as director of ACMS. She also spoke powerfully about the vital role of the arts, saying:  “What about that first time a child takes clay into his hand and molds something beautiful. Or he makes a colorful collage. Or he paints a canvas and before him his creative expression is made real. And he is forever changed because of that experience. That is the work that we are doing and that is the work that the National Guild is supporting.” You can watch the full acceptance speech here.

Last year, in a GuildNotes article looking at what is required of leaders moving into the future, Margaret made the following observations: “Looking toward the future, it is likely that demand for the arts will continue to outpace the services that we can provide. Our difficulties may never go away. However, effective leaders should recognize that difficult times can be the catalyst for everyone in the arts to embrace their personal leadership. Those of us who know the healing power and energizing beauty of the arts need to personally set goals for action.” You can read the full article here.

Honoring Margaret’s Legacy

In honor of Margaret’s remarkable contribution to her community, to the National Guild, to arts education, and to the many young leaders that she supported with guidance and mentorship, the National Guild is pleased to announce the Margaret Perry Leadership Fund. This fund will be used to support the development of arts education leaders who, like Margaret, will make a lasting impact of positive change on their communities. You can support the Margaret Perry Leadership Fund via a donation here.

Published: April 12, 2018