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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE TOY DEPARTMENT, 1913

Portrait of a Prodigy: 1933

Portrait of a Prodigy: 1933

Washington, D.C., 1933. "Miss Gloria Perkins, portrait." As a 10-year-old violin prodigy, Gloria played with the National Symphony Orchestra. View full size.

 

Wonderful update from Erica

That brought a smile to my face.
Thanks especially for the photograph!

Your violin teacher

Wonderful! Thanks for the photo - this truly is a way to make the past come alive. Did you let her know about or show her her photo here on Shorpy and, if so, what was her reaction?

My Violin Teacher

I began taking private lessons with Ms. Perkins when I was about 5 or 6 years old and continued through junior high school.

She is 88 years old now and is still playing her violin. I grew up in Queens, NY and she still lives in the same house where I took lessons from her. After high school I stopped playing the violin but recently began to play again (I'm now 27). She lived with her brother who passed away, I think a few years ago. She still plays occasionally at weddings and churches and has a couple of students that she is still teaching!

I moved away after high school to attend college and live out of state. However, I have family still in NY and decided to visit her my last trip up (last week). It has been probably since junior high school when I last saw her. She is an amazing woman and is still the exact same lady I remember growing up. A quintessential teacher, passionate about her first love and somebody who lights up a room. She would not let me leave without sifting through her music to find a copy of "Adoration" for me to play, as I mentioned to her I play weddings occasionally. I am a photographer now and took several photographs of her before I left.

A part of me wishes I lived in NY so I could visit her and receive lessons again. An amazing woman.

The Wonder Years

Whenever I see this kind of portrait, I always wonder what became of the subject. There's something about this girl's face that especially leaves me filled with unnerving curiosity. The newspaper excerpts are very helpful, but I still wonder: did her parents push her? Did she continue to play? It says she didn't do her next solo again until '72, but did she play for a band? She would be about 86 now. I wonder if she's still alive.

[The 1972 performance was her first solo recital in New York in many years. We don't know if she continued to give recitals elsewhere. - Dave]

Gloria Perkins Returns to the Stage

N.Y. Times, September 25, 1972

Gloria Perkins, Violinist,
Returns to Recital Stage

The last time Gloria Perkins gave a solo recital in New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt was in his second term as President, and the violinist was a 12-year-old prodigy. Sunday afternoon she was welcomed back by a cordial audience that nearly filled Carnegie Recital Hall.

Miss Perkins, who now lives and teaches in Queens, has much to offer as an artist. Her tone is firm and full, her intonation precise, she phrases musically, and her playing has an assertive energy that, when not pressed too relentlessly, produces performances of impressive impact ...

Young Soloist

Washington Post, Nov 12, 1933

Child Artist Makes Debut at Symphony

Young Soloist Will Play Mendelssohn Concerto This Afternoon

Gloria Perkins, an exceptionally talented child violinist will maker her debut as an orchestral soloist in Washington this afternoon, playing a Mendelssohn Concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Hans Kindler. She is a pupil of Louis Persinger, who succeeded Leopold Auer as head of the violin department of the Julliard Graduate School.

Gloria was born ten years ago in Winston-Salem, N.C., and has lived in New York since she was 2. At the age of 4 she played the piano with surprising ability and when she was 6 she began the study of violin with her mother. Her progress was so remarkable that she was placed under the tutelage of Mr. Persinger who had instructed Yehudi Menuhin and Ruggiero Ricci.

Little Girl Blue

The little details of her crucifix and ring make her look like she's posing for a communion picture with an incidental instrument.

Not sure I would have appreciated the "oily black corkscrew" comment in Time. Her poor hair looks like it would really prefer to frizz and/or be left alone. Possibly like the girl herself; she looks a little sad.

Time for Gloria

It seems she made Time magazine back in the day.

Gloria Perkins, 10, whose mother is a church organist in Queens Village, Long Island, and whose father, Clemmett Birdsong Perkins, is Eastern Passenger Agent for the Norfolk & Western Railway Co., played the Mendelssohn Concerto with the National Symphony in Washington. Gloria is a wispy little girl who wears big hair ribbons and oily black corkscrew curls. She took so long to tune her violin that the audience started to titter. But the feeling rapidly changed as the Concerto got under way. Gloria was not only technically expert but her playing had a simple persuasive quality that touched the audience deeply. Father and Mother Perkins are making a pianist of their son, Clemmett Birdsong Perkins Jr., 3.

 
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