Open main menu

CHENEY, Mrs. Abbey Perkins, musical educator, born in Milwaukee, Wis., in 1853. She inherits her rare gifts through her mother, from a long line of singing ancestors, the Cheneys of Vermont, who for a hundred years have been famous for their fine and powerful voices and exceptional musical culture. Her mother. Mrs. Elizabeth Cheney Perkins, has a remarkably pure and strong mezzo-soprano voice, and was very successful before her marriage, as a church and concert singer in Buffalo, N. Y., and subsequently in Milwaukee, Wis., and in Leavenworth, Kans. She still enjoys, in her serene silver-haired old age, the musical and literary pleasures of her daughter's San Francisco home. Mrs. Cheney's father, one of the enterprising young business men of Milwaukee in the 50's, was also a music lover. He died in 1861, and his last words to his little daughter were: "Lose no opportunity to cultivate your musical talent." The father's wish decided the child's future Mrs. Perkins encouraged and aided her daughter in every way. and as her two other children early followed their young father, ABBEY PERKINS CHENEY.jpgABBEY PERKINS CHENEY. she was left sadly free from all hindrances to these efforts. The little girl soon achieved such successes that, when only fourteen years old, she was called with her mother to take charge of the music in Ingham University, LeRoy, N. Y. Two years later they resigned that position in order to go abroad for the prosecution of the daughter's musical studies. They went to Germany, where Miss Perkins entered the Conservatory of Leipsic, and also received private tuition from Louis Plaidy. During that year in Leipsic she was a pupil of Paul, of Coccius, of Reinecke and others on the piano, and of Richter in harmony. But the best teachers in Leipsic were unsatisfactory in point of technique, and through the counsel of honest Coccius, as well as by advice of the master, Liszt, she went to Stuttgart to study with Sigismund Lebert, whom Liszt pronounced the greatest living teacher of technique. The school year at Stuttgart had just closed, and the young American girl presented herself tremblingly to the master for examination, winning such favor that he offered to teach her, contrary to his custom, through vacation, going three times a week to his pupil's bouse and to the last refusing all compensation. When the school re-opened, the brilliant young musician was admitted to the artists' class, and there for four years she studied with Lebert and with Priickner, the friend of Von Billow. Then, having received her diploma, she began in Germany her successful career as a musical educator. A term of study with Edward Neupert, the pupil of Kullak, closed her pupil life, but by no means ended her musi- c;d studies. She returned to America, thoroughly equipped for the profession and yet not so wedded to it as to prevent her being wooed and won by the young musician, poet and litterateur, John Vance Cheney, with whom she went to California in 1876. First in Sacramento, and later in San Francisco, Mrs. Cheney has been the pioneer of a new school of musical technique, and the signal success achieved by her pupils is proof conclusive that in her treatment of piano-playing, primarily from the physiological standpoint, she as enlarged and improved the methods of her masters, Reinecke, Lebert and others. It is proper to state here that the physiological investigations, which have made Mrs. Cheney an originator in her field of work, were instigated by her own great suffering from partial paralysis of the right hand and arm, brought on by over-taxation when completing her studies abroad. It is without doubt, due to this fact that we have the sympathetic broad-minded, self-sacrificing educator in place of the brilliant concert pianist.