Jerome Wright directs the Olympic Girls Choir on Tuesday evening at Trinity United Methodist Church in Sequim. Chris McDaniel/Peninsula Daily News

Jerome Wright directs the Olympic Girls Choir on Tuesday evening at Trinity United Methodist Church in Sequim. Chris McDaniel/Peninsula Daily News

Finding the innner voice: Choral Director resurrects Olympic Girls Choir in Sequim

SEQUIM — Finding the inner voice of his pupils and training them how to share it with the world through music has been a lifelong passion for a man who has resurrected a choir in Sequim.

“It is trying to train the whole person in body, mind and spirit,” said Jerome Wright of Brinnon.

“It is a really holistic thing, because it is not enough to do just the notes and the pitch, but to find the soul of the music. Part of what I teach is a way of living. It is okay to express yourself in beautiful and internal ways.”

Wright, 76, has reformed the fee-based Olympic Girls Choir, once active from about 1998 through 2003. It had a peak of about 30 members, he said.

“It is really a resurrection of the group I had before,” Wright said.

Wright, who is in the process of selling his Brinnon home of 17 years and moving to Sequim, said he was forced to discontinue the choir in 2003 after surviving a heart attack.

“My doctor said I had to give up something, so I gave this group up.”

After a while, “I realized how much I missed conducting,” he said.

Back in action

Now back in action, the new group includes four girls: Abigail Perkins, 9, alto; Amanda Weller, 12, soprano; Jordan Hegtbedt, 12, alto; and Madeline Dietzman, 12, soprano.

The first practice for the choir was held in early October, and Wright is recruiting new members.

“It is not too late to welcome charter members,” he said.

“We want to build this group up.”

Wright encourages girls in the fourth through eighth grades to consider singing for his group, and said he would also consider ninth-grade students willing to mentor the younger girls.

“We are kind of classically built here,” he said.

“We teach music theory, and sight reading, too, so they become literate in music.”

And, students will be taught “in a choral setting with other people [their] age,” he said.

“It is great for home-schooled kids. It is great for band and orchestra students who can’t schedule choir” into their calendars otherwise.

For now, Wright is “starting with two-part work, and we hope that we will get enough singers that we will have a decent ensemble,” he said.

Holiday concert?

If enough students sign up, “we will do a concert here for the holidays . . . and present something for the community,” he said.

No dates have been set at this time for such a concert, he said.

The group meets from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., in Sequim.

Weller said she joined the group because she doesn’t have time to sing in the choir at her school.

“I can’t participate in the school choir because I am in an advanced math course,” she said.

Hegtbedt said the “reason I signed up for this is because it is kind of like a private tutor, except it is more people. It is . . . almost one on one.”

She also joined “because I love singing and it kind of helps me know what to do. It is fun and you get to learn new things.”

So far, Hegtbedt has learned how to better “project my voice more when I am singing, because I usually don’t except for my favorite songs,” she said.

Perkins said she joined the group because she plays the cello for her school orchestra, which conflicts with school choir practices.

“I really like it here because there are a lot of other girls in the choir that love to sing,” she said.

“At school, not very many people who go into choir love to sing. It is just so that they can get through school.”

Cooperative learning

“We try to make the choir room . . . a sanctuary — an oasis from the world around us which is increasingly chaotic,” Wright said.

“And so, we leave our stuff outside the door, we come in here and we create a beautiful space in which we can be artists and work on that together and make that happen.”

Wright was formerly the minister of music at University Christian Church in Seattle and retired after 28 years as the director of the Seattle Girls Choir in 2010.

“I love it. I love to see the little ones catch on. It is very exciting. I spent my career really trying to get young people to catch that spark, because it is an influence in their lives that can’t be matched by anything else. It is something that you can’t avoid if it is born into you.”

Early start

Wright began playing the violin at age 8, and moved on to the piano and woodwind instruments.

He studied instrumental music and singing in college.

He went on to obtain two doctorates from the Universal Life Church Seminary of Seattle, one in philosophy and the second in comparative religion.

While music has always been a major part of his life, “the studies in theology and metaphysics have been to explore the inner music-making that you normally don’t get” in college level music courses, he said.

“You normally get the technical part, but I was looking more for the soul of the music, and so I went in that direction.”

For more information about the group and accompanying fees, call 206-369-3349.

________

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or cmcdaniel@peninsuladailynews.com.

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