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The evolution of a leader

Meet Grammy nominee, Calvin alum, and bold leader Debra Perry. By embracing the leadership opportunities she had at Calvin, she started on a path toward becoming a pioneer in gospel music.

Deep roots

Debra grew up accompanying her mother, a worship leader in Grand Rapids, on the piano. Her mother knew that Debra was gifted in music long before Debra did.

“I applied and ended up getting a scholarship to go to Calvin, and by that time my mother had passed away. I believe it was all part of God’s plan to attend Calvin and pursue my real calling—music,” Debra reflected. “All the other things I wanted to pursue began to fall away.”

Strong wings

At Calvin, Debra found herself surrounded by a community that knew how to love her and also how to stretch her.

Debra joined Calvin’s Campus Choir and started to have some influence in song decisions. It was there that she introduced gospel music into the repertoire.

“One of the genres we would do at Campus Choir was gospel. It hadn’t really been done before,” Debra remarked. “Out of the Campus Choir, we began the Gospel Choir.”

Debra made the most out of these opportunities to lead Campus Choir. And she remembers this experience at Calvin as the time when she developed the skills she would use for the rest of her life.

Community investments

Debra is now the lead singer of Debra Perry & Majestic Praise, a group of eight singers based in Grand Rapids. Local radio stations are playing their new single, “Look at Me Now.”

Debra is also one of the only female songwriters to have been nominated for a Grammy award in the gospel category. She worked with Marvin Sapp on his most recent album, Close, which was nominated for Best Gospel Album in 2018.

Apart from singing gospel music, Debra also teaches music at the Coit Creative Arts Academy.

“Helping students become empowered within themselves is my main goal. I want students to recognize the gifts that are within them,” Debra shared.

She believes the influence of her Calvin professors is still showing up in her life today.

“I’m using the strategies I’ve taken from my professors in my own teaching. At first, I didn’t realize Calvin had been with me all that time. It brings everything full circle.”


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