Getting to know the faculty: Jeffrey Wright


Zachary Araki

Dr. Jeffrey Wright, department head of music and performing arts, poses with his classical bass. Wright started playing the instrument in sixth grade as the only one in his class tall enough to play it.

Zachary Araki, A&E Editor

Though new to the university, Dr. Jeffrey Wright, department head of music and performing arts, carries with him a passion for music and a plan for the department.

Wright joined the faculty in July. He previously served as the department head at Indiana University South Bend. Having lived in Michigan, Arizona, Indiana and North Carolina, Wright is no stranger to a change of scenery.

“I like experiencing different regional cultures of the United States, and one of my first memories here is probably my second week on campus, I had to work a summer orientation,” said Wright. “The student orientation leaders started writing Louisiana words on the board and asking me to pronounce them to see how close or how far I was from the correct pronunciation.”

Wright’s entrance to music began in fourth grade when he joined his school’s orchestra. By sixth grade, he took up the classical bass as the only student tall enough for the instrument, and it remains his string of choice.

Wright said, “We would play something in orchestra, and I would rush out to the CD store at the time because it was before iTunes and MP3s, and buy professional recordings of these pieces to hear different interpretations of them, and I just really fell in love with orchestral music.”

Though Wright started his undergraduate years as a music education major, music history enchanted him as he changed career paths.

Wright recalled how listening to a musical piece in his introduction to music course can evoke a response from him despite hearing it a thousand times.

“I know it by heart, and it got to a special climatic part in class, and I got goosebumps because it was just to me such a powerful musical moment,” said Wright. “No matter how many times I listen to it, and I know it’s coming, music still has this ability to elicit joy and excitement in me, and it’s just what I really love about music.”

Wright believes every genre of music can equally resonate with a person whether it is classical, electronic dance music, hip-hop, country or rhythm and blues. 

To Wright, the position of department head allows him a greater ability to influence students.

“As a music history professor, I could impact and influence and hopefully better a relatively small group of students,” said Wright. “I taught my courses every semester, and that was the scope of my reach. But as a department head, I can more effectively serve all of the music students and all of the students on the Southeastern campus.”

Wright welcomes all students through the doors of the Pottle Music Building that he hopes to make a performing arts beacon for the community. Students do not have to declare a music major or dance studies concentration to be involved in the department whether it is as a spectator or performer.

Though Wright focuses more on research and publications, he remains active with the performance side of music.

Wright said, “Sometimes those of us that are more academic researchers of music forget about the performance aspect because other things occupy our interest, but I think it’s really important to keep that connection that almost universally is what drew all of us to music to begin with. I don’t know if there’s anybody who read a book about music, and that’s what made them passionate about music. It’s listening and performing music that really ignites that passion.”