As the sun sets on another enchanting summer season of the Eastern Music Festival (EMF), the unwavering passion and dedication its patrons have for this cultural extravaganza never goes away. It is said that EMF is Greensboro’s best-kept secret, but within its community of passionate audience members and faculty, it is an event that has been anticipated every summer for the past 62 years.
The Eastern Music Festival has left an indelible mark on the Triad community, reaching far beyond the confines of its concert venues. Aspiring musicians benefit from masterclasses, workshops, and mentorship programs that are offered during the festival. These opportunities empower young artists to hone their skills, gain invaluable experience, and find their voice in the world of classical music.
In the heart of the community stands a devoted advocate of the arts – Judie Davie Wright. For nearly 30 years, Wright has graced EMF events with her presence, demonstrating not just her love for music, but also her profound belief in the transformative power that the festival holds. Like some of the audience members, Mrs. Wright does not have an extensive background in musical performance. She is purely an enjoyer of the energy and the enthusiasm from attending, watching, and listening to chamber music and classical performance.
To Mrs. Wright, EMF means hope. She says, “It’s a treasure right here in our midst. It gives me hope through the meditative quality of beautiful music in a time of cultural and political and social chaos. I find that very comforting and very nurturing.”
Growing up, Wright was exposed to classical music through the 78 records of Strauss waltzes that her parents owned. Her memories of dancing and singing to these melodies play through her head. In her college years in Birmingham, Alabama, she ushered at musical events at the local theater. Wright always found that there was something very calming and meditative when listening to classical music.
“My first exposure to Ravel’s Bolero was in high school. And then another one I remember is the Grand Canyon suite,” said Wright. “So just seeing those musical moments being brought to life at EMF is very special to me.”
Beyond being an enthusiastic audience member, Wright has actively contributed to the EMF community. Her involvement extends beyond the concert halls as she has a dedicated scholarship, in memory of her husband, Dr. Kieth Wright, for cello players to attend EMF for the summer. She has contributed part of the funds for the scholarship each year since 2011. Wright is proud of the scholarship because it fulfills her mission of supporting this cultural gem and its young students.
Every summer when EMF rolls around, Mrs. Wright reserves the last week of June through the month of July to be completely free of traveling so she can be in Greensboro for the festival. The performances she most looks forward to each year are Tuesday nights with the Eastern Chamber Players, Saturday nights with the Eastern Festival Orchestra, and all student orchestra events.
“July is the best month of the year because it’s an uplifting time in my life to be able to attend these events,” said Wright. “I’ve been growing in my awareness of and likeness of classical music. I’m also encouraged because I know that families and communities have enabled this to happen. So when these young people truly come from all across the world, there is hope that there is a future to be shared in these musical experiences for generations to come.”
The community at large reaps the rewards of its audience members’ dedication and the contributions of countless supporters, like Mrs. Wright. EMF’s presence has enriched Greensboro’s cultural fabric, making it a more vibrant and desirable place to live, work, and visit. Through music, the festival has bridged gaps, transcended differences, and fostered a sense of unity among the diverse population of the Triad region.
As the Eastern Music Festival looks to the future, it is enthusiasts like Judie Davie Wright who provide the melody that propels its success. Her passion for the arts and her unwavering commitment to supporting EMF’s mission have set an inspiring example for others to follow. Judie’s hope is that more individuals, businesses, and organizations will recognize the profound impact of the arts on our community and rally together to sustain this musical institution for generations to come.
Written by Catharine Yoder with special thanks to Judie Davie Wright.