By Mark Nolte
The oldest nonprofit music organization in the United States, the Music Teachers National Association, recently named a BYU School of Music professor a fellow of their association.
Irene Peery-Fox, who has been teaching at BYU for 23 years, accepted the fellowship in March at the 2003 National MTNA Conference in Salt Lake City.
“It was the biggest thrill of my life because what that said is that this is what the people think of your work [and what people] think of you,” Peery-Fox said. “It was more thrilling than any performance or any CD.”
Peery-Fox has long been a member of the MTNA along with 24,000 other independent and collegiate music teachers across the nation.
But, Peery-Fox”s nomination for a MTNA fellowship is a rare honor. For someone to be named an MTNA fellow their peers must nominate them and donate at least $1,000 to the MTNA Foundation Fellow program. The donated money is then used to further music education within the United States.
“It”s almost like another degree,” Peery-Fox said.
According to the MTNA Web page, the association “is committed to advancing the value of music study and to supporting the professionalism of music teachers.”
Those that know Peery-Fox say her dedication to piano teaching exemplifies the mission of the MTNA.
“She has an incredible ability to bring out the best in students,” said Jeffrey Shumway, a professor of piano in the School of Music. “Her students have a very high standard of performance that permeates throughout all the music students at BYU.”
Brandon Matthews, who took a class from Peery-Fox, said he knew of her reputation for “pumping out great students” before attending his first class.
“We went to class where she was teaching us how to be piano teachers; it was very impressive to see how she does it,” Matthews said.
Beyond dedication to her profession, Peery-Fox said she could not think of any specific thing she does to train and teach some of the most successful pianists in the world.
“I concentrate through every lesson. I watch the curvature of the fingers; I listen to every sound,” she said. “I am really thorough in making sure that every detail of being a good pianist is taken care of.”
Several of Peery-Fox”s former students have won national and international piano competitions.
One nationally recognized group of pianists, “The Five Browns,” received their earliest piano lessons from Peery-Fox. The Brown siblings, who now attend the Julliard School of Music, performed at the 2003 National MTNA Conference where Peery-Fox received her fellowship.
In addition to teaching, Peery-Fox also performs in piano concerts and judges national and international piano competitions.