Renowned musician now makes Fishers his home
By John Cinnamon
To call Michael Scherperel “piano man” doesn’t do him justice. The man, who was once a vocal coach to Luciano Pavarotti, also holds a degree in chemistry from Harvard, a Master of Music from the University of Miami and has spent most of the last 30 years working for Amadeus – a travel software company, not the 18th century composer. Still, playing piano as an accompanist for singers at recitals is what Scherperel finds most rewarding. “It’s the thing I like best,” he said.
Scherperel moved to Fishers two years ago with his wife, Loretta – she’s also an accomplished musician – after retiring from his IT job at Amadeus, mainly to be close to their daughter who also lives in Fishers. Through a referral from a piano-teaching neighbor, the 67-year-old Scherperel has been playing as an accompanist for students at solo and ensemble contests. “I’m kind of hooked into the high school community,” he said, “but the professional community I’m still working on.”
One of those professional opportunities Scherperel sees is with Fishers Music Works. “I happened to come across this Fishers Music Works with Doug Whisman and Ji-Eun Lee,” Scherperel said, referring to the not-for-profit organization that sponsors local ensembles and performances. “I’m hoping that that’s going to lead to more playing.”
Playing is what Scherperel has done for 60 years. Growing up in south Florida, he was introduced to music as a child when his father (a drummer in dance bands) bought an organ for his mother (a violinist for the community orchestra). The purchase included free lessons, which 8-year-old Michael took full advantage of. After graduating from high school, Scherperel enrolled in the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., “and I loved it,” he said. “But I always wanted to be a doctor. So after a year, I transferred to Harvard and got a degree in chemistry.”
During his first year at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, music was never far from Scherperel’s thoughts. “I was spending all of my free time down the street at Boston University at the opera workshop,” he said, “so I switched back.”
With a Master of Music degree from the University of Miami, Scherperel embarked on a career in music that has included stints as a vocal coach at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, music director of the Broward Symphony Orchestra in Florida, artistic director of the Fort Lauderdale Symphony Chorus and chorus master and assistant conductor of the Greater Miami Opera. It was during his time with the Miami Opera in the late 1970s that Scherperel was called upon to do some vocal coaching for Pavarotti. Scherperel drew a distinction between vocal coaching (what he does) and being a vocal teacher. “Teaching is exactly that, you teach a person how to sing,” he explained. “Coaching involves helping the singer to shape the music. A lot of it is language and diction.”
He was making a living in the music business, but just barely. “When you’re young,” said Scherperel, “you can live on peanuts, which is what musicians make. But then you buy a house and have a child and think, ‘I’d like to give this kid more.’”
So in 1981, Scherperel left the Miami Opera and started full time with Amadeus (the irony of working for a software company named for Mozart was not lost on the lover of classical music) writing computer code, while still playing and performing whenever possible. “I continued with music,” he said, “but at that point, it became an avocation.”
Fast-forward 33 years and the retired Scherperel sits in his comfortable home on a wooded lot just off Lantern Road discussing the music and arts scene in the greater Indianapolis area. He is especially impressed by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the music program at Butler University, where he was offered a job but had to turn it down due to his wife’s illness at the time (she’s fine now).
Closer to home, Scherperel said, “It’s a very vibrant arts scene here in Fishers and I think Doug (Whisman) is on the right track. It’s a very fertile ground here to grow the kind of thing he’s doing.”
And the piano (and computer and medical) man looks forward to growing right along with it.
Master of Music from Univ. of Miami
B.A. in Chemistry from Harvard Univ.
In concert Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Studio 37 within the Ji-Eun Lee Music Academy at 10029 E. 126th St. Featuring soprano Susan Boardman and original music by Mr. Scherperel. Admission $10 at the door.