How did you get involved in storytelling?
There was a guy who lived down the street from me who was dressed up one day like Abraham Lincoln. I asked why he was dressed like that and he told me he was a storyteller. His name was Bert Minkin. I told him I was a percussionist and asked if he had ever thought about adding percussion to his stories and characters. Bert thought that was a good idea so we started working together. He and I were doing a performance at a community center and Gladys and Truman Coggswell were in the audience and saw our performance. During the performance, I interacted with the children and my instruments on my own. Gladys liked what she saw and introduced herself. As our friendship grew, she invited me to do a percussion workshop at her By Word-of-Mouth Storytelling Conference/Festival. That was around 1994.
Shortly after that, I began working with Gladys, Glynis Brooks, and January Kiefer. At that time, I played sitting down. I did not approach playing the instruments the way I do now. When my wife, Jackie, became a storyteller, I did not freelance anymore. She and I became Tales Told the “Wright” Way and we worked at developing our own style of storytelling. I add sound effects, color, and texture with a variety of percussion instruments as Jackie tells folktales and fables.
Why did you join MO-TELL?
I joined MO-TELL to support storytelling in Missouri. I was on the board years ago as Vice President. I recently became a lifetime member.
What are some of the things you like to do?
Besides dining out and traveling, which I have not done since March 2020, I enjoy playing creative improvised music. It gives me a chance to use my imagination, create my ideas, be spontaneous, and release a lot of energy all at the same time. My goal as a creative improvisational musician is to perform on a national level. In June of 2022, I joined Fred Tompkins, bass flute/C flute and Greg Mills, piano/melodica to createfree improvisational music. I have already recorded with Greg on an avant-garde CD entitled “KUVUKA,” featuring Greg on piano and me on drum set. The Tompkins, Mills, Wright Trio just recorded one CD and another is due to be released soon. I am also working on a CD with musician Tory Starbuck.
What do you want people to know about you?
I am a professional percussionist and puppeteer. I taught percussion at the St. Louis Conservatory and Schools for the Arts for 23 years. I also taught St. Louis Community College’s Applied Music students for 3 years. I have performed with St. Louis Symphony musicians on various projects. I have also worked with world class jazz musicians. I have been a teaching artist with “The Wright Rhythms for Small Hands” workshops and residencies over 30 years with Young Audiences of St. Louis that is now Springboard to Learning, a national organization that sends artists into the schools for enrichment programs. I also play solo vibes or marimba for private parties and art exhibits.
I am a member of Puppeteers of America and the Puppet Guild of Greater St. Louis. I was the President of the Puppet Guild from 2005-2015. Together with Jackie, we formed our business called
The ‘Wright’ Entertainment for Children. We offer puppet shows and puppet workshops, children’s percussion workshops, and storytelling. We published a children’s story- coloring book based on one of our puppet shows.
Besides being an artist, I am a former marathon runner. I ran 100 miles a week to train for marathons. My best marathon time is 2 hours and 41 minutes for the 26.1 miles. When I was 30 years old, I ran the Alton, IL Ten Mile Run in 54 minutes flat. Now, I am too busy to run like that; so I only jog slowly for an hour every day; and I do not miss a day.
In 2018, I was featured in an article in St. Louis Magazine about my work as a performing artist. I was honored in 2012 by receiving the Luminary Award from Springboard to Learning for my percussion work with young children in St. Louis City and County Schools. Jackie and I were recipients of St. Louis Magazine’s 2007 A-List Award for Best Story Time. In 2006 I receivedthe Progressive Youth Connection’s World of Children Award for my work with children through Young Audiences of St. Louis. I received the 2005 Pillar Award given by the Intercommunity Housing Association for dedication to serving the poor of St. Louis.