Grand Rapids Symphony names West Michigan businessman Peter M. Perez as President and CEO

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GRAND RAPIDS, MI, March 21, 2017 – In January, Grand Rapids Symphony appointed Peter M. Perez as interim President and CEO. Now the Board of Directors is taking back the word “interim.”

Perez, a longtime symphony supporter and immediate past board chairperson, now becomes President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Symphony. The Board appointed him to the permanent post on Thursday, March 16.

“This is a real honor,” said Perez, who served as Board Chairperson from 2013 to 2015.  

Perez’ enthusiasm for music and his commitment to the Grand Rapids Symphony, as well as his business acumen as chairman of Carter Products, were key factors in the decision.

“Peter is extremely passionate about every aspect of the Grand Rapids Symphony,” said Mary Tuuk, Vice Chairperson of the GRS Board of Directors and co-chair of the Presidential Search Committee.

“Peter loves the musicians, the staff and the community,” said Charles Frayer, Chairperson Elect of the Board of Directors and co-chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “It’s a great fit.”

In January, Perez was named interim President and CEO in advance of the departure of Peter Kjome, who left the Grand Rapids Symphony on Feb. 1 to become President and CEO of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Though a Presidential Search Committee had begun to organize a national search for the orchestra’s next administrative leader, the committee soon determined the best person for the job already was on the job.

“We were looking for someone who would connect with our community and donors, with our musicians and staff, and who would provide leadership for the organization,” Frayer said. “But having a seasoned businessman also was very important to us.”

Formerly president of two world-famous musical instrument manufacturers, C.G. Conn, and Steinway & Sons, Perez and his wife, Carroll, came to Grand Rapids in 1990 when they became owners of Carter Products, a family-owned business producing accessory equipment for the industrial woodworking machinery industry.

“To get someone with his knowledge and experience in the industry, that’s just phenomenal for us,” said Frayer, former Managing Partner with Crowe Horwath LLP. “His connectivity with our donors and the community would be very, very hard to duplicate. If we brought someone else in from an international search, we wouldn’t get that at all.”

A native of Elkhart, Indiana, and a graduate of Yale University, Perez is a retired U.S. Navy officer and earned his MBA from Indiana University. He served his country more recently as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing in the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington from 2010-2012.

In West Michigan, Perez served on Grand Rapids Symphony’s Board of Directors. For four years, he co-chaired the Legacy of Excellence Campaign that in April 2016 reached its $40 million goal in gifts, pledges and future estate plans to grow the orchestra’s endowment fund.

“Peter can tell our story well and with passion,” said Kate Pew Wolters, who succeeded Perez as Board Chairperson in 2015. “As a fundraiser, Peter is the best, and he rarely takes ‘no’ for an answer.”

Perez served as Board Chairperson during the first two years of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s three-and-a-half-year Music Director Search, which ended with the appointment of Marcelo Lehninger in June 2016.

As Board Chairperson, Perez was an official voting member of the committee. When his term ended, his vote automatically went to his elected successor. But Perez continued to participate, said Tuuk, who served as Co-Chair of the Music Director Search Committee. 

“Peter felt a continuing responsibility to ensure continuity, and he was passionate about the future artistic direction of the orchestra,” said Tuuk, Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer for Meijer, Inc. “He always participated in search committee meetings with excitement, energy and enthusiasm that was infectious.”

Perez, who is a Director of the Grand Valley State University Foundation and has served as a board member and executive committee member of The Economic Club of Grand Rapids, said he’s pleased to lead the organization into the future.

“I’m in awe of our musicians and what they produce. Anything I can do to support that mission is a real honor,” he said. “The Grand Rapids Symphony has accomplished so much in the past two years, and the people of West Michigan can take pride in having one of the finest regional orchestras in the country here in their hometown.”

Best of all, Perez already is on the job for the orchestra.

“There’s no transition,” Frayer said. “He’s already on the job, and he’s doing a great job.”

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities all reached through extensive education and community service programs. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. GRS provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet and sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which returns in March 2017.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the website or

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This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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