Born in Highland Springs, Virginia, Steve was the son of George Perry and Shirley (nee Mankin) Nelson. Steve studied piano and at the age of fifteen, he played an organ recital at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond. The following year, he traveled to Vienna, Austria where he studied with the great authority on Bach, Anton Heiller.
Steve’s interests gradually turned from organ to the human voice. While living in Richmond, he performed in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance and the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. In the early 1980s, Steve became a fixture in the musical theatre scene, performing at the Barksdale Theater and Swift Creek Mill Playhouse.
For seventeen years, Steven served as Organist and Music Director at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Richmond and was also responsible for the installation of the church’s well-regarded Schantz pipe organ.
Steve was a strong believer in issues of social justice. He often said that one of his proudest moments was “Richmond for Life ’91” AIDS fundraiser concert that he organized at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, and for which he conducted the Mozart Requiem, accompanied by the Richmond Symphony.
Steven also had a career in banking, which he began as a teller for Bank of America. Rising through the ranks, he received an offer for an executive position in St. Louis and relocated there, having begun using his father’s name, Perry.
In St. Louis, he remained faithful to his musical calling and to the Lutheran Church. He served as music director and organist at St. Thomas/Holy Spirit Lutheran Church for twenty-four years. He was instrumental in planning Sunset Hills Sings, a relief effort for the community as it recovered from devastating tornados that hit in 2010. He was the planning force behind the beloved ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve service which utilizes traditional folk and bluegrass instruments in the liturgy. His dedication to STHS’s music and worship will be greatly missed.
While in St. Louis, Perry added composer to his list of many talents. World Library Publications has published several of his sacred choral works as well as a hymn collection. His hymn setting of Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr.’s “Bring Peace to Earth Again” is published in the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship.
Perry had also become a St. Louis foodie. He enjoyed supporting local, up and coming restaurants and delighted in sharing his thoughts about them with his friends.
Steve/Perry is survived by his brother Thomas Nelson (Sandra, nee Cheatham) and his beloved parrots, Isolde and Tristan. His many friends and colleagues will miss him greatly, but his light will always remain in our hearts. A memorial service is planned for a later date.