Born: July 21, 1831, Poughkeepsie, New York.
Son of a Baptist preacher, Perkins came from a family of 10 children who sang and played various instruments. His music lessons began at age three.
During his father’s pastorate at Hamilton, New York, choir rehearsals were often held at the parsonage; the leader would put the three year old on a small stool, on the table around which the choir was assembled, giving him a chance to see and hear.
Later, Perkins would play the violincello in church, standing on a stool to finger the instrument.
In 1839, the family moved to New York City, where Theodore studied the pianoforte. By age 19, while working as a clerk, he used all his spare time to study voice and piano.
In 1851, he went to Hamilton, New York, to teach music at Madison University (later Colgate University) and the Female Seminary.
In 1854, Perkins went to Port Jervis, New York, where he taught singing school.
In 1855, he married Mary Caskey, who for years was his soprano soloist in many events. Soon after the marriage, they moved to Salem, New Jersey.
In the summer of 1856, he and his wife studied at the Normal Academy of Music at North Reading, Massachusetts, under Lowell Mason and George Root.
In 1859, Perkins became co-principal, with William Bradbury, of the Normal Academy of Music at Geneseo, New York.
He also worked in schools in North Pelham, Ontario, Canada, and in Tunkhannock and Meadville, Pennsylvania, and served as musical director in numerous churches in Brooklyn, New York, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
He also taught
voice culture at Princeton and Lafayette Universities, the Union Theological Seminary, and Crozer Seminary, Upland, Pennsylvania.