Top Billboard artist Josh Wright has been playing his popular arrangements and classical performances for piano daily at Education Week.
“It’s all the same material,” Wright said. “It’s featuring some of my favorite pieces from the classical repertoire, spiritual hymn repertoire and popular music as well, so it’s a nice mix from my last few CDs from Deseret Book.”
Wright’s varied influences and musical styles have resulted in his several crossover albums that blend his interpretations of classical pieces with other genres.
“I got started writing some hymn arrangements on my mission,” he said, “and I thought, ‘Why don’t I combine into them the pieces I really love and give them a more classical flavor?'”
Wright says he got his start after his grandma took him to see one of the Five Browns, a group that performs classical piano pieces. That concert was when he knew that he wanted to perform classical music.
“I was studying with my grandma for a while and she said, ‘Let’s get you with a more advanced teacher,'” he said.
That’s when he began to study with Susan Duehlmeier, from the University of Utah.
“Josh studied with me since he was about 8 years old,” Duehlmeier said. “I watched his progression through his master’s degree at the University of Utah.”
Duehlmeier said that Wright took great interest early on in learning complex pieces with difficult technique.
“Josh performed on the Utah Symphony’s Salute to Youth concert and recorded both sets of Chopin Etudes before he was 12 years of age,” Duehlmeier said. “He performed the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto not long afterwards.”
These days, however, Wright is venturing out into different genres to accompany his love for classical. His goal was to do something new but without losing the classical flavor of his playing.
“I took a different genre, popular music and themes, like Led Zeppelin, Les Miserables and movie themes,” he said. “Then I would arrange them in such a way that it has classical influence on it, like Stairway to Heaven or Les Miserables. Chopin really inspired that piece, but it’s not an actual classical theme.”
Along with his pursuits in recording and performing, he is currently studying for his doctorate at the University of Michigan.
“Piano performance is a three-year program,” he said. “Two years are coursework, and the last year is just a few different recitals to play.”
He says that one of the most valuable experiences he’s had in his studies is developing his opinions on music and defining his style.
“It’s been good to study with someone else, to gain some perspective,” he said. “It forces you to question as an artist, ‘What am I trying to portray?’ There are so many different opinions, so you become more convicted in what you’re doing.”
As he has developed his musical style, he has also helped his own students around the world with Skype and offering free lessons through his YouTube channel.
“I’ve taught lessons in China, Ireland, England, Japan and Canada, and it’s been a really great experience,” he said. “It’s a gateway to teaching students from many different countries.”
Going forward, he will continue to spread his affinity for music among different countries, students and genres.
“Josh is a very perceptive musician,” Duehlmeier said. “It was apparent early on that he had a wonderful talent and natural facility.”
Wright will give his final concert Thursday evening at 8 p.m. in the Madsen Recital Hall of the Harris Fine Arts Center.