Originally intending to be a public school music teacher/choral director, Damaris Porter Peters-Pike became and educator because she wanted them to have a full, well-rounded education, as well as their musical training. She feels they could make a greater impact on our culture if they are intellectually acute, as well as musically proficient. Ms. Peters-Pike taught a sixth-grade class with 80 children on the south side of Chicago, and started a chorus that traveled around and sang at other schools. At their rehearsals, she had a platform she would stand on so they could all see her. When she stepped down for a break, the students could visit with each other, but when she stood back up on the platform it had to get perfectly silent and it worked beautifully. That really made her want to do choral conducting even more.
Ms. Peters-Pike’s husband got a job at Hiram College in Ohio and, in 1989, they needed someone to teach classic piano and she started teaching there. They added on voice lessons, which she loved. She started chairing the music department from 1983 to 1991, and decided she didn’t need a doctorate. They also needed a choral director and she did that from 1980 to 1991. They went on a few tours to New York, Disney World and some churches. Ms. Peters-Pike also started an opera workshop and kept very busy.
In addition to this tenure, Ms. Peters-Pike founded and directed the Hiram College Opera from 1975 to 1983 and was active with the Hiram College Madrigals from 1983 to 1998. Since 1988, she has performed with the Women of Note, an enthusiastic group of women who love to sing in a cappella harmony. Through the group, she impersonates women who excelled in music including everyone from the wife of Bach to women like Doris Day. She has even been Mozart’s sister, which most people are not cognitive of. They do not know that she lived because her father pushed her back since she was a woman, and her performance was well received. She performed all over in places such as Chautauqua, New York, northeast Ohio and the west coast of Florida on Sanibel Island. Her biggest remark is that talented women are not forgotten.
Ms. Peters-Pike’s proudest achievements include starting the opera workshop at Hiram College and presenting several full scale productions, mainly musicals. It is no longer in existence, but she is proud that she started it. They were about 20 students in the opera. Additionally, there was a fund established in Ms. Peters-Pike’s honor when she retired called the Damaris Peters-Pike Choral Enhancement Fund.
Prior to the start of her professional career, Ms. Peters-Pike pursued a formal education at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, earning a Bachelor of Music in music education, magna cum laude, in 1954. She then attended Kent State University in Ohio, where she attained a Master of Music in voice performance in 1979 and completed postgraduate studies. A prolific writer, Ms. Peters-Pike authored and performed numerous pieces including “Katie: My Life with Martin Luther” in 1991, “Bubbles: A Visit with Beverly Sills” in 1992, “Gertrude Lawrence – A Star Danced” in 1994, “Irving Berlin: A Daughter Remembers” in 1995, “Off to Never Never Land” in 2017 and “Lucretia Garfield – First Lady for a Whiler” in 2018, among others.
In light of her achievements, Ms. Peters-Pike was named Teacher of the Year by Hiram College and Outstanding Teacher of the Year by the Board of Higher Education. Furthermore, she was the first recipient of Hiram College’s Dean’s Award and was honored with the T.A. Abbott Award for Faculty Excellence by the Division of Higher Education of the Christian Church. Ms. Peters-Pike was also selected for inclusion in the 72nd edition of Who’s Who in America.