Chopin Competition prizewinner to play at Chamizal
By Victoria Molinar
27-year-old Josh Wright couldn’t resist the chance to play his favorite pieces for this season’s El Paso Chopin Music Festival, a free concert series that honors one of the world’s most beloved composers in history. His performance this Saturday at the Chamizal will present some insight into his passion for the Polish virtuoso’s work.
A prizewinner of the 2015 National Chopin Competition, Wright tried his hand at the piano at age five and challenged himself with Chopin’s etudes at age 11. Fast forward to 2013 when the Utah-native played a piano that oozed vibrant paint and exploded with chalk for a music video to his rendition of Chopin's Étude Op. 10, No. 4. The video caught the attention of America’s Got Talent producers, who had Wright play a similar performance for the show last year.
The producers of the popular reality television series aren’t the only ones who had their eyes and ears on Wright; he also topped the Billboard Classical Traditional chart with his self-titled album “Josh Wright” and was recognized by Washington Post as a pianist who demonstrated “touch, intelligence and the ability to surprise.”
Wright, who holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Michigan, keeps busy touring and teaching (check out a countless list of his free lessons on JoshWrightPiano.com), but we were able to snag several minutes with him to talk about Chopin, meditation and learning the piano at any age.
Q. What is your favorite piece by Chopin and why?
Chopin’s first Ballade. I think that’s what motivated me to really get into Chopin’s music. It’s on a movie called “The Pianist,” and I really enjoyed that performance. It was very moving. I’ll be performing all four Chopin Ballades next Saturday, which is my favorite set of pieces Chopin wrote.
Q. How do you feel about the fact that there are contests and concert series like the El Paso Chopin Festival that are dedicated to Chopin’s work?
I think it’s great because he has such a relatable style for audiences whether they’re classically trained or not. Everybody can enjoy Chopin’s music. He is such a brilliant composer and so personal and so emotional in his writing.
Q. Can you tell me a little about “Meditation,” the album you made with your wife?
We do a bit of meditation before we perform. She’s had anxiety for a while and she found that meditation really alleviates that, so we wanted to make an album that would help people in their quest for battling depression or anxiety or for those seeking a more peaceful experience. In a way, it’s like a guided meditation. We have a narrator on there who gives a quote about life or faith or spirituality or humor or various topics and then we play a very common classical piece for each track. They’re our most beloved, relaxing, classical pieces on that CD. But it’s a two-disc set. One disc has narrations and the other disc doesn’t, so there’s beautiful music on both discs and those will be available at the concert.
Q. If you could compose the soundtrack to any movie or type of movie, what would it be?
I’ve never thought of that before. I guess if you could compose a track to a silent film, I think that would be a great achievement because that would really be the ultimate challenge.
Q. What would you say to those who want to take up piano but think they’re too old to excel in it?
I think that you want to look at it from the perspective of it bringing you joy and pleasure and peace, and it’s never too late to start. I actually teach a lot of adults. I’d say probably 75% are adults and I teach them all over the world through Skype, and a lot of people are retired. I’ve had students from age 5 to age 85, so I don’t think it’s ever too late to enjoy music and to learn and progress.
El Paso Chopin Music Festival featuring Josh Wright
Chamizal National Memorial Theater, 800 S. San Marcial St.
Saturday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m.
Free, all ages