We recently spoke to Dr. Priyeshni Peiris-Perera, who graduated from the TTU School of Music with a DMA in piano pedagogy, about her background, education, and current endeavors in Sri Lanka.
Dr. Priyeshni Peiris-Perera, an international award winning choral & music director, is the first and only person in Sri Lanka to graduate from an American school with a doctoral degree in Western music. She studied at the Texas Tech University School of Music, achieving a DMA in piano pedagogy under the direction of Dr. Lora Deahl. Now she works at a university in Sri Lanka, teaching and organizing academic and community music.
Peiris-Perera grew up in a family of musicians and was primarily self-taught. She started learning the piano at age four, eventually studying for and passing the music exams from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, based in the UK. Peiris-Perera entered a piano competition featuring as top prize a scholarship to study abroad in the U.S. Though she finished the competition as a runner-up, she thought, "I should find my own scholarship and that . . . propelled me" to look for opportunities in the United States.
North Dakota State University offered Peiris-Perera an academic scholarship, leading her to the Midwest for her bachelor's degree. Her master's degree was completed at the University of Tennessee. Peiris-Perera heard Dr. Deahl present at a Music Teachers National Association conference. She found that her own research objectives, focusing on relaxed techniques of piano playing, aligned with Dr. Deahl's. This led her to the School of Music at Tech.
A recipient of the prestigious Paul Whitfield Horn scholarship, Peiris-Perera also held an AT&T Chancellor's Fellowship during her studies at Tech. She cites Dr. Deahl, Dr. Carla Cash, and Dr. Janice Killian as influential faculty members in her development as a performer and educator. Peiris-Perera says the School of Music "has many, many resources and I think everybody should really make use of them to the maximum."
Peiris-Perera returned to Sri Lanka after graduating from Tech. For nine years she has taught at the University of Visual and Performing Arts in the city of Colombo. She also founded Prestantia Music School, a private K-12 music school boasting close to two hundred students, and coaches both adult and children's community choirs. Her adult choir won the Asian Pacific Choir Games last year while her children's choir was runner-up. This sparked a tour of China for the children's choir as they participated in the International Children's Chorus Festival.
Peiris-Perera was recently back in the U.S., presenting at the American Music Therapy Conference about the therapeutic effects of Mozart's music and culture-oriented traditional Sri Lankan music. She was here at Tech November 13-14, presenting a series of lectures on her research.
More information about Peiris-Perera and Prestantia Music School can be found at music.edu.lk.