Janice Kapp Perry was a sports fanatic. She participated in as many sports as possible, playing racquetball, fast-pitch softball and volleyball. When she was 39 years old, a series of injuries began to slow her down, until one day, playing a game of Horse with her nephew, Perry landed wrong and broke her ankle.
The break did more than stop her from playing sports; it changed her life forever.
Growing up in Vale, Oregon, Perry was a tomboy. When she was young, her mother asked why she didn’t play with the dolls she made her. Perry didn’t want to hurt her mother’s feelings but explained what she really wanted for Christmas was a cowgirl outfit and a football.
Being a tomboy fueled her passion for being active and competitive, something Perry’s daughter, Lynne Christofferson, admits made her proud.
“As a pretty young child I was proud of my mom. I knew that most friends’ mothers didn’t do these things,” Christofferson said.
The day after the injury, the Perrys’ bishop asked Perry to write the original music for the ward roadshow. “That was really the start of remembering that I really loved music,” she said.
Almost 35 years later, through multiple trials, Perry has written more than 1,300 songs, contributing to the Primary Children’s Songbook and the LDS Hymnbook. Recently, LDS Living Magazine conducted a survey, naming the 100 greatest LDS songs of all time. Perry had eight songs in the top 27.
Favorites including “A Child’s Prayer,” “Love is Spoken Here,” “In the Hollow of Thy Hand” and “I Love to See the Temple” ranked high on the list.
From 1993 to 1999, Perry had what she called the “best musical experience anyone could have,” singing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Coming from a musical family, Perry studied music at BYU. During her sophomore year, she had four classes with Doug Perry.
Just before performing for a clarinet exam, Doug nudged Janice and said, “I was just thinking those lips were made for something better than playing the clarinet.”
A year later, they were married in the Logan Temple.
Like all young married couples, they couldn’t see the journey ahead. “I knew she was special, but I didn’t know why,” Doug Perry said.
Before writing music, Janice Kapp Perry spent many years as a typist, working from home to help support their growing family.
“My earliest memories involved the Spirit and the soothing and comforting sounds of a typewriter,” Christofferson said.
Years later, when Janice Kapp Perry began composing, perhaps because of the typewriter, a pain in her left hand developed into an unexplained paralysis, causing her fingers and wrist to pull under. She visited 40 specialists who were ultimately unable to determine the cause.
Despite the painful process of composing, Janice Kapp Perry has successfully written hundreds of songs loved by people all over the world.
At the start of her career, she set two goals: to add to the simple music of the church and to write a song that the Primary children might someday sing.
“All of the Primary songs of mine that you know best were written for my own ward or own stake,” she said.
“I Love to See the Temple” was written for her stake, and”I Am Trying to Be Like Jesus” was written for a Primary regional conference. Perry was asked to write a “missionary fight song” for a Primary program at the Marriott Center; 200 children performed “Army of Helaman.”
Acclaimed pianist Marvin Goldstein joined the LDS Church in 1985. His first calling was Primary pianist, where he realized much of the music that he enjoyed during his conversion was written by Janice Kapp Perry. He loved what he called the “simplicity and beauty” of her work.
“She is amazing, sweet and considerate, and because of what she does,” Goldstein said, “doors open all over the world.”
In 2002, the Perrys served a mission to Chile. Doug Perry spoke Spanish but suffers from a voice disorder, and Janice Kapp Perry tried to avoid playing piano in public due to her paralysis. Doug Perry simply said, “I gotta talk, and you gotta play.”
During their mission, the Perrys learned a lesson about sacrifice. “Those that pay the price make a beautiful contribution,” Janice Kapp Perry said. “Mine is simple music.”
She did pay a high price for many of her contributions. Perhaps her most painful trial was the loss of her fifth child. Because of a blood issue, doctors attempted a transfusion in the womb. Richie was born at seven months and only lived for eight hours.
Janice Kapp Perry didn’t take the time to grieve; she went home and focused on comforting the other children. After enough time passed, she wrote “My Heart Sang a Lullaby” and admits, “When I wrote that song 20 years later, I cried for two weeks and then it was over.”
Through it all she has learned the purpose of trials.
“Your trials sober you,” she said. “They make you turn to the Lord, and the best way for me to turn to him was through music.”