Wendell G. Wright sound recordings, scores, and other material
Collection, dated 1957–1997 (bulk 1977–1994), consisting chiefly of audio and video recordings of the Lois J. Wright Memorial Concert Series, as well as papers, concert programs and correspondence relating to the series. There is also a collection of scores, including several compositions and arrangements by Gerald Burks Wilson.
Donated by Dorothy Wright, August 2000.
Wendell G. Wright, born on August 18, 1921, was an East Baltimore native who attended Douglass High School. He wanted to attend the Peabody Conservatory after graduation but was denied admission because he was an African American. Instead, he took private singing lessons in Baltimore and sang with choirs along the East Coast. He became the first African American to join Baltimore's Handel Choir and performed at the White House at one of President Richard M. Nixon's prayer breakfasts.
Wright devoted his life and resources to helping young singers and musicians. In the spring of 1977, he started the Young Artists Series at St. Katherine's Episcopal Church, which soon evolved into the Lois J. Wright Memorial Concert Series, named for Wright's first wife, who passed away that year. The Concert Series encouraged and supported performances by minority classical musicians. Wright's efforts also resulted in the creation of the Community Outreach Committee at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where he was appointed chairman of the Inclusion Committee, which brought more African Americans into the orchestra. Additionally, he created “Live, Gifted and Black,” an annual concert where African-American artists performed the work of African-American composers with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Wright died on May 24, 2000, at the age of 78. His second wife, Dorothy, whom he married in 1978, donated the collection after his death.
The Wendell G. Wright Collection consists primarily of materials relating to the Lois J. Wright Memorial Concert Series and includes nearly 300 reel-to-reel audio tapes of musical performances, most of which are recordings of Concert Series performances, along with recordings of related musical performances. Papers relating to the Concert Series, which include concert programs and correspondence, have been arranged chronologically by concert season. Although the series appears to have continued from 1977 until at least 1997, the collection contains no papers relating to the years 1980 through 1984. Audio and video recordings of the Concert Series beyond the 1993–1994 concert season are lacking.
The Wendell G. Wright Collection also includes several published musical scores by black composers, and these consist largely of spiritual arrangements. An interesting component of the collection is a group of twenty scores (both manuscripts and copies of manuscripts) by the African-American composer Gerald Burks Wilson. A few fragments and unidentified pieces by Wilson are also included. There are other materials relating to Wilson, including copyright registration certificates for his compositions, in the series.