"Excellence" concerts bring classical pianist Josh Wright to Peery’s Egyptian

"Excellence" concerts bring classical pianist Josh Wright to Peery’s Egyptian

Next week’s free concert by classical pianist Josh Wright is going to be a tale of two halves.

The first half of the concert will feature technical pieces written by Frederic Chopin.

“It will be a classical piano program — exciting, with lots of fireworks,” Wright said.

And the second half?

“In the second half, I wanted to try something different than usual,” he said. “I wanted to try out relaxing music in the second half — I’ve never done that before.”

Tunes like the George Shearing arrangement of “Over the Rainbow” and Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” will dominate the set list after the intermission, according to Wright.

“As a concert pianist, you’re trying to do a demanding repertoire,” he said. “But once in awhile, you’ll throw in a relaxing piece. And so often, people will come up after the concert and say, ‘That (more relaxing choice) was my favorite piece. It was so beautiful and soothing.’”

So Wright decided to try an entire half of those more relaxing, less technically demanding pieces.

“The younger people in the audience like fast and exciting pieces — and there will be plenty of that,” Wright said. “But there will also be some classical favorites that people have come to love.”

Wright’s solo piano concert is part of the free Excellence in the Community concert series. The music begins at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, in Peery’s Egyptian Theater in downtown Ogden.

While the concert will be a “nice classical evening,” Wright also stresses that it will be “totally family-friendly.” He says there’s a delicate balance to be reached in taking small children to the symphony, but it’s a balance that’s worth pursuing.

“If a kid is crying or noisy, take them out and enjoy the music from the hallway or where it’s piped into the lobby,” he said. “I’ve taken my daughter, who is 3, to concerts, and we’ve spent a heavy amount of time in the lobby.”

But, he says, that daughter has also spent quiet times in the concert hall, listening to music, and she absolutely loves it. Wright says he hates to see those announcements that, “This concert is for ages 8 and older.”

“I think, ‘What kind of a culture are we cultivating if we have those types of restrictions?’” he said. “Besides, I know poorly behaved 10-year-olds and well-behaved 4-year-olds.”

Of course, Wright doesn’t recommend parents sitting their young children on the front row of a classical concert — “Their wiggling can be distracting to the artists” — but he says “let them be a part of the experience, just sit toward the back, or next to a door.”

Wright welcomes children and families at his concerts.

“When people think ‘classical,’ they think, ‘I can’t bring my kids to this,’” he said. “I can’t speak for all concerts and artists, but for me, I love it when little kids attend my concerts. That’s how I was inspired.”

Indeed, as a young child growing up in Sandy, Wright took piano lessons from his grandmother. His parents, who had season tickets to the Utah Symphony, took Wright to see a classical pianist once with the symphony. He was hooked.

“I saw Ryan Brown — from The 5 Browns — play with the symphony at 8 or 9 and said, ‘I want to do that,’” Wright recalls. “My parents said, ‘Well, we’ll have to get you a better piano teacher.’”

So Wright went up to the University of Utah and auditioned with a teacher there. He hasn’t looked back.

There’s a special place in Wright’s heart for teaching the piano. He’s a part-time instructor at the University of Utah, and he started his own YouTube channel to help his students — who are now spread out all over the world.

“Within a few videos I had people emailing me from foreign countries,” he said. “Teaching has become the cornerstone of my career — almost even more than performing.”

These days, Wright performs 10 to 20 concerts a year — “nothing too demanding where I’m on the road a lot.”

As with all Excellence in the Community concerts, the Ogden performance is free, and no tickets are required.

“I encourage everyone to come and enjoy a relaxing evening of classical music,” Wright said. “Obviously, there will be some fireworks in there, but it’s a good opportunity to relax and get your mind off the pressures of life. It’s a good way to start the new year.”

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