Middletown UMC pianist Vernon Cherrix honored by Steinway piano company

November 23, 2021
By Alan Wild
Longtime piano instructor and Middletown UMC pianist Dr. Vernon Cherrix was recently inducted into the Steinway Teacher Hall of Fame – an honor for Cherrix, but also a bit of a mystery that he’s still trying to unravel.

Cherrix, 77, said he received an email in July from a Steinway & Sons representative informing him he was being honored by the prestigious piano manufacturer. That’s about all he knows at this point.

“I thought maybe it was a joke, because I don’t have any connections at all with Steinway or anyone who works with Steinway,” Cherrix said in a recent Zoom interview.

“I did once have a Steinway piano, but that was about 50 years ago,” he added, laughing.
A news release from the 168-year-old manufacturer said Cherrix was one of 44 teachers recognized as the “most committed and passionate piano educators” in North America.

"Music education has been a cornerstone of our historic company since the late 1800s, and today is no different," Gavin English, President of Steinway & Sons Americas, said in the news release. "We are very proud to work with the talented music educators inducted this fall into the Steinway & Sons Teacher Hall of Fame. These teachers foster passion, creativity, and discipline in the next generation of piano artists. Their work deserves the highest praise."

The news release said an area showroom nominated Cherrix to its second class of Hall of Fame inductees. All their names will appear on a commemorative plaque at the Steinway factory in New York City.
Cherrix said a Steinway representative will be in Louisville in December, and he hopes to learn more about the honor then.

“I was talking with my wife earlier and figured they just put all the piano teachers’ names in a hat and drew 44 names,” he said, laughing again.

Cherrix recently celebrated his 25th anniversary as the pianist at Middletown. A concert and reception were held at the church in September recognizing his service there. He plays in the 8:30 a.m. traditional service and the 11 a.m. blended service on Sundays. 

Before Middletown, he was the pianist as St. Paul UMC in Louisville and helped that church launch its contemporary service.

“Vernon is a professional and his heart of worship shines through every Sunday,” said Rev. Gary Gibson, Senior Pastor at Middletown. His music “helps the congregation see and experience the presence of Christ every Sunday.”

Cherrix retired in 2010 from the University of Louisville School of Music, where he taught piano, piano pedagogy and piano literature. He also has taught lessons to generations of young pianists both in person and – during COVID-19 – virtually. He is looking forward to being able to resume in-person lessons in January, assuming the pandemic numbers cooperate.

Cherrix has taught professionally since 1964 and has had as many as 48 students at a time. He and his wife, Nancy, have two grown sons, Josiah and Simeon. Cherrix, a former Baptist, also spent almost four years teaching in Taiwan in the late 1970s before returning to complete his doctorate. He said his time in Taiwan was “the best thing I ever did. I had never even been out of the country before.”

In recent years Cherrix has cut back on the number of students he teaches but still enjoys interacting with young people.

“I think the thing that I’ve been really blessed and lucky is I’ve been able to earn my living by doing what I love to do. That’s really rare these days.”