Temple Times Online Edition
    APRIL 13, 2006
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Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching

Wright helps students face the music

Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg/University Photography
Laura H. Carnell Professor of Music Composition Maurice Wright, who began composing his own music at the age of 10, says, “I cannot remember a time when musical ideas were not part of my consciousness.”

Maurice Wright’s first brush with music came in first grade when he led his classmates in Christmas carols. Before long, he was flexing his fingers at a piano, and by age 10 he was composing his own pieces.

“I cannot remember a time when musical ideas were not part of my consciousness,” said Wright, the Laura H. Carnell Professor of Music Composition at the Boyer College of Music and Dance.

His boyhood passion for music never diminished, and he’s spent the past 26 years at the Boyer College passing on his knowledge and love of music to budding composers and performers.

For this dedication, Wright has earned a 2006 Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Wright’s teaching philosophy flows from his belief that all of his students are capable of masterful work.

“In a composition lesson, the teacher has to find a way to set challenges and remove obstacles so that the student develops an individual voice, strong technique and the confidence to be liberated from the teacher,” Wright said. “I believe that everyone who sincerely wants to develop their musical talents through patient practice can make a contribution.”

His devotion to his students, especially as a mentor to doctoral candidates, is unmatched, and Wright’s imprint is visible on scores of Boyer graduates who are now musical standouts.

One such doctoral student of Wright’s, Andrea Clearfield, is an internationally known composer and pianist and founder of the Philadelphia SALON Concert Series. More recently, he has nurtured undergraduates Mena Hanna, a Marshall Scholar, and Prema Kesselman, a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar.

“It is a great pleasure when performers graduate from Boyer and perform my compositions in professional settings,” Wright said.

Wright counts his mentorship of 22 doctoral students as one of the highlights of his teaching career, an accomplishment that hasn’t escaped his colleagues.

In recommending Wright for the award, associate professor of music theory Michael Klein wrote, “He has advised a remarkable number of students in their doctoral dissertations, which, for composition, require a deep commitment from the faculty advisor to guide a graduate student through the completion of a major musical work.”

Wright’s lessons are buttressed by his inventiveness and range as a composer. He has written orchestral pieces, operas, chamber music, vocal music and electroacoustic music, a style that he describes as “music realized with electronic or computer synthesis techniques.” He has been commissioned by the Fromm Foundation at Harvard, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Emerson String Quartet, and his work has been recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Currently, Wright is collaborating with soprano Laura Heimes, a Boyer graduate, and pianist David Pasbrig to create a series of songs based on the poetry of William Van Wert, the Laura H. Carnell Professor of English who died in 2003.

“The University offers the professing musician a generous level of support in return for teaching, creative work, and service to the academy and the musical professions,” Wright said. “To work in the company of colleagues and students with similar goals is rewarding in many ways.”

- By Ted Boscia