Audrey Florence Dean-Wright
Audrey Dean-Wright is a singer, choral director, pianist, adjudicator, composer, and poet currently living in Nassau, Bahamas, where she is an associate professor at the College of The Bahamas and served as head of the visual and performing arts there from 2010-2013. She has won numerous national and international awards for her work and contributions in music and poetry.
Audrey was born in Nassau, The Bahamas, known for its singing and well-trained choral groups. When still a child she was influenced by choirs and groups that sang sol-fa, solfeggio, a common practice in The Bahamas at that time. The result was that the choirs were unusually proficient in sight reading. Audrey sang in choirs from her earliest years and formed her own church choir at age twelve.
She started piano lessons at age ten with Muriel Mallory and at age twelve was able to study with a leading pianist in the islands, concert pianist E. Clement Bethel. He and an “Aunt Hilda Barrett,” a choir director, provided encouragement as she continued her music studies, and she considers them important mentors as she prepared for her career. In 2004 she presented “An Evening of Enchanting Music,” featuring a full concert of her original music at The College of the Bahamas in memory of Bethel.
Audrey graduated from The Bahamas Academy of Seventh-day Adventists in Nassau in 1967. She studied at the Jamaica School of Music in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1970-1971 and after teaching for two years traveled to New York City, where she attended the Manhattan School of Music as a scholarship student from 1973 to 1977, when she completed a B.Mus. During that time she directed the Cherub Choir and Women’s Chorale at the Mt. of Olives SDA Church in Brooklyn, New York, from 1974-1977.
Upon her return to The Bahamas in 1977, she began teaching music at The College of the Bahamas and has taught there since, except for a study leave when she returned for graduate work at MSM in 1981, and other leaves later in that decade and the middle years of the next. She completed an M.Mus. in music education in 1983 at MSM, with an emphasis on choral conducting and a performance area of clarinet. She also married Carlton Wright in 1982. Their four children have all been involved in music.
Carlton, now retired, served as an Ambassador in The Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As the wife of a diplomat, Audrey had the opportunity to extend her music ministry throughout and beyond the boundaries of The Bahamas during his years of service. This happened when they lived in Miami from 1983-1985, following her graduation from MSM, and when they worked in the Bahamian Embassy in Haiti from 1985-1988. She also founded and directed The English Choir at the Institut Adventiste Franco Haitian, now the Université Adventiste d'Haïti, and raised $3,000 to assist in the building of the college auditorium.
From 2005-2008, when The Bahamas was establishing an embassy in Cuba, she was listed as Education and Cultural Attaché and worked with her husband in the setting up of the ambassador’s office and residence. While residing in Cuba she read some of her poetry for leading Caribbean writer George Lamming at a festival in his honor in 2007, dedicating a poem “The Journey,” that she had written two years earlier to him. She also formed a choral group, Cantabile, to perform for diplomatic and church events.
Dean-Wright has composed over 250 original compositions. They encompass a broad spectrum of music, including Bahamian Folk Songs, Spirituals, standard choral music, and works for piano and flute. Her music has been performed frequently in the Bahamas and in the United States, and her music and poetry have led to performances in Prague and London as well as in Poland, Ghana, Surinam, Haiti, and Jamaica.
She has directed as many as five different choirs at the same time and is the founding director of The Bahamas Seventh-day Adventist Meistersingers, Minister of Music at the Centreville Seventh-day Adventist Church and director of its youth choir, and Director of Music for the South Bahamas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The SDA Meistersingers performed at the General Conference Sessions of the church in 2005 at St. Louis, Missouri, and in 2010 at Atlanta, Georgia. She is now listed as Director Emeritus of that group.
Dean-Wright is Co-founder and Co-director of and pianist for The Bahamas National Children’s Choir, a group that has traveled internationally, performing in eight countries, including the U.S., since 2001, when it traveled to Russia. In 2004 it returned to Russia to participate in the eighth annual Children and Youth International Choir Festival, where it placed 2nd out of 65 choirs. In 2012 they were bronze medal winners in the 11th China International Chorus Festival and International Federation for Choral Music.
She has served as director of the Nassau Renaissance Singers since 2009, after serving as its accompanist from the age of sixteen. In those years as an accompanist she would also conduct works she had written for the group, a custom that has continued since becoming its permanent director. They produced a CD, Music for Christmas, in 2012.
In 1998 she founded the College of The Bahamas Concert Choir. Under her leadership, it has enjoyed remarkable success, performing extensively at the college and in the community, at international festivals and conferences, and for the President of Botswana and President Nelson Mandela of South Africa.
Dean-Wright has aggressively sought to give COB and its Concert Choir more national and international visibility, while continuing to enrich the musical experience of its singers and the local community. In 2000 her school became the first and only non-American member of The Southeastern African-American Collegiate Music Festival (SEAAC), an event that brings together historically black university choirs to sing and celebrate the works of leading composers. She and her music have been featured at festivals held in 2003, 2005, and 2013. In 2005 the SEAAC conferred on her the title of “Composer Extraordinaire.”
In 2003 COB hosted the first SEAAC festival to be held outside the U.S. and in April 2013 hosted the event again when their choir joined with those from Alabama State University, South Carolina State University, Southern University and A&M College, and Winston-Salem State University. In spite of the college’s small size, the music department’s choir has held its own at these events, which have fostered greater cultural understanding and a healthy perspective about their work and standing when measured against other choirs. In this year’s festival, its 20th anniversary, SEAAC gave her a lifetime Achievement Award.
At an SEAAC festival held at Fiske University, she was taken by surprise when she entered the cafeteria and five university choirs spontaneously burst into a rendition of her composition, “Lord Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace.” It was a delightful and inspiring experience for her.
She developed a choral program at COB that is the pride of the country and the region. Its reputation for outstanding work led to an appearance in the historic Episcopal Church of the Intercession in New York City in March 2013, where they performed “A Concert for Spring: From Concert Classics to Calypso.” The choir was also featured on local NYC television. It has accepted an invitation to perform at Lincoln Center in New York in May 2014.
The growth and accomplishments of the choir under her direction reflect her belief that The Bahamas has a depth of talent in all the arts which, when nurtured and developed, is equal to that of any other country in the world. She has frequently presented workshops at and served as an adjudicator and judge for numerous events in The Bahamas and elsewhere, adjudicating at The Bahamas National Arts Festival for over 25 years.
Dean-Wright also enjoys a reputation as both an author and a poet. She has written three published music-related books and won awards for her poetry, most of which reflects Bahamian culture and religion. One of her poems, “Mask,” won the Editor’s Choice Award and was published in an international anthology of poetry and included in a multi-CD set, The Sound of Poetry, released in 2007 by the International Society of Poets.
Her poem “Not Just Breasts” received a standing ovation at the Women’s Day Celebration, Panafest, in Ghana in 2005. “The Journey,” a poem that has been recited at several events dealing with slavery, was inspired by her visit to Ghana, where she visited the castles and dungeons where slaves were held before being shipped to the Caribbean and the U.S.
In the February 2013 Bahamas International Symposium on Composers of African and Afro-Caribbean Descent, sponsored by The College of the Bahamas and the Nassau Music Society, she spoke about a work she had written following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. She had earlier lived there for three and a half years and had been touched at that time by the hardships endured by that country’s inhabitants.
She was profoundly troubled over the results of the earthquake and had difficulty processing it, finally finding expression to her feelings through the poetry in a song titled “Port-Au-Prince Tombé” (Port-au-Prince Has Fallen.) One of her music students at the college, Lavanda Brown, performed the song at the symposium, which was attended by some of the best musicians in The Bahamas, the region, and the world.
Dean-Wright has been a major influence in Bahamian life and culture for over forty years, playing a major role in the renaissance in the arts that has occurred in that country during that time. The country’s music and dance groups have won honors in international competitions against the best performers in the world.
In 2006 she was chosen Woman of the Year by the American Biographical Institute and has also been listed twice in the International Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women. In 2008 she was chosen as one of the 25 Most Outstanding Women in The Bahamas in recognition of her contributions to the arts in that country and was also given a “Living Legend Award” that same year.
Sources: Information provided by Audrey Dean-Wright, October 2013; Interview with Audrey Dean-Wright by Beryl Edgecombe on Dem Bahamian, Bahamian Cultural Society, 11 June 2013, an online You Tube video; “Symposium Celebrates Diversity of Afro-Caribbean Musical Talent,” College of The Bahamas website, 28 February 2013; “College of The Bahamas Concert Choir head[s] to the Big Apple to perform Sunday night,” Bahamas Press, 2 March 2013; Jeffarah Gibson, “Major Firsts for COB Music Festival, 17 April 2013, The Tribune website.
Music by Audrey Dean-Wright
A Partial Listing
(All listings are SATB unless otherwise noted)
O Praise the Lord (First religious composition)
I Want to Go to That City
Hallelujah (In memory of Winston Saunders)
Praise the Lord (2004 Music Ministry Conference)
Ode to Music (For Kayla Lockhart)
Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace (for Pauline Glasby)
We Shall See Jesus (For Mother, Marina Dean. Published in Sabbath School Leadership and The Review and Herald)
Memories (Four part arrangement of “For Keva” on the death of Dr. William Jackson, performed at South Carolina State University)
Be Faithful My Brother
When I’m in Trouble, I Pray
We Thank You, Lord
Who Am I Lord? (For my husband Carlton)
Rise Up Children Give Thanks (20th anniversary of The College of The Bahamas)
My Jesus I Love Thee
Lord Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace (With two flutes and percussion, performed at SEAAC Festival)
Don't Hold Me Back I'm Going up Yonder
Witnessing, Praying, Worshipping (Written for the 50th anniversary of Centerville SDA Church)
Stay in the Ark
Transforming Lives By his Power (Theme song for Inter-American SDA Sabbath School Congress, November 2012)
Pray On, Work On (Theme song, Festival of the Laity, South Bahamas SDA Conference, 2013)
Our Cornerstone (Solo or Congregational with piano)
Our Father Which Art in Heaven
That Tiny Baby Boy
Sing Him a Lullaby (For Carmen Balthrope, leading international opera singer)
His Mother Sang to Him (In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Nassau Renaissance Singers)
Gentle Christ Child (With optional flute, For Patricia Bazard, my sister)
Dat Christmas Mornin' (TTBB)
If Jesus Was Born In Nassau Town
Sing a Lullaby
Christmas Time is Special (Written in memory of Pauline Glasby, 2010)
Sweet Little Baby (For Hilda Barret)
Welcome Blessed Sabbath Day
Amen (Written for the choir of the Marianao SDA Church Choir, Havana, Cuba)
Hear Our Prayer, O Lord
May the Love of God Be In Your Heart
Lord We Come Before You
Let Us Worship Christ
Deep Down In My Soul
I Will Praise the Lord
We Lift Holy Hands
Transforming Lives by His Power (Theme song for Sabbath School Congress, South Bahamas SDA Conference, 2012)
Holy Spirit (Theme song for camp-meeting, South Bahamas SDA Conference, 2013)
Pray On, Work On (Theme song for Festival of the Laity, South Bahamas SDA Conference, 2013)
O Jesus I have Promised (Written for the funeral of Sir Lynden Pindling, Prime Minister of The Bahamas)
And Can It Be
My Hope Is Built (All three of these listings written for the funeral and memorial service of Pastor Keith Albury, President of The SDA Bahamas Conference)
All Creatures Of Our God And King (For Todd and Sherry Beneby’s wedding)
I Know a Guy Name Danny (First written composition)
I’ll be with You
Peace for My Soul (For Karla)
My God Is In Control
What a Friend We Have In Jesus
You’re The One (For Nicola Miller-Brown’s Wedding)
Look What They Done My Jesus (Written for Nikita Wells, leading Bahamian soprano, for the production of The Story of the Spiritual by The Nassau City Opera 2010
Port-au-Prince Tombé (Written for Nikita Wells for “Standing With Haiti” Concerts that assisted Earthquake victims in Haiti 2010)
Additional Songs in Other Categories
(Written in 2008 as gifts for grand nieces and nephews)
Bahamian and Related (17)
Songs for Children (28)
Children’s Songs for Soloists and Choirs (9)
A more complete listing of Audrey Dean-Wright’s music and a listing of her poetry and other writings can be obtained by contacting her directly.
1.242.327.0394 (Eastern Time Zone) firstname.lastname@example.org