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Date: March 30, 2004

Canada's "Jingle King" donates $1 million to music education at UVic

Don Wright, music educator, composer and philanthropist, has made a donation of $1 million to support the music education program in UVic’s faculty of education.

Wright, 95, who resides in Toronto, is well known for his lifetime contributions to Canadian music, and for his generous philanthropy and passionate support of music education. The gift to UVic will help the music teachers of tomorrow bring music to the lives of generations of school children.

“I love music so much, I want to give it to everyone,” says Wright. “These future music teachers have a dream to spread the joy of music – and I want to help them pursue that dream.”

The gift will provide for both undergraduate and graduate scholarships in music education, the growth of music education programs, and student-focused initiatives such as “Bandfest,” a youth band festival hosted each year at the University of Victoria. The endowment will also enable student ensembles to participate in invitational international musical events and provide for regular repair and replacement of musical instruments and other vital equipment.

Wright’s generosity has touched the lives of many. His interest in young people and the teachers who work with them has generated 34 endowed, perpetual scholarships at 13 universities across Canada. Other beneficiaries include several hospitals, churches and choral ensembles.

“This gift is a truly extraordinary validation of the work so many people have done to build music education at UVic,” says Dr. Budd Hall, dean of the faculty of education. “It’s a wonderful legacy that means music education will be strengthened, particularly when music programs in schools are under such pressure. This is the perfect gift at the right time, a great encouragement to students and teachers.”

“Don Wright’s generosity means perpetual support for excellence in teacher education at UVic,” says Faye Wightman, UVic’s vice president of external relations. “We are delighted that he has recognized UVic in this fashion and chosen to support our students with such kindness.”

Born into a musical family, Wright took to music at an early age. In his youth, he and his brothers founded an orchestra. “Everyone,” he notes “wanted to dance to it.” As a student at the University of Western Ontario in the early 1930s, he conducted the university orchestra, organized the school band, and introduced the “girl drum major” to Western football games. A top athlete, he set a Western track record for long jump – 23 feet – that was unbroken for 40 years.

Wright taught music, classics and history at Sir Adam Beck public school in London, Ontario and in 1935 married Lillian Meighen, the daughter if the Rt. Hon. Arthur Meighen, former prime minister of Canada. Wright went on to a career in radio, composed music for television and wrote music for hundreds of advertising spots – earning him the title of Canada’s “jingle king.” He wrote a number of now standard books on developing the young singing voice and music suitable for children’s changing voices.

Wright’s connection to UVic began in the late 1970s. While teaching at an Ontario summer music camp he met two young students who went on to pursue their studies in music education at UVic. Wright ultimately endowed two UVic scholarships in music education, and in 2001, he was granted an honorary doctorate of music by the university in recognition of his work and contributions to music education in Canada.

“UVic and I share a common cause,” says Wright, “because we want to help develop great music teachers with that special ability to reach kids through music – to give them that precious gift.”

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Media contacts:
Dr. Budd Hall (Faculty of Education) at (250) 721-7757 or bhall@uvic.ca
Chris Thackray (External Relations) at (250) 721-6247 or thackray@uvic.ca

Mr. Wright will be available for interviews on March 30 all day, and on March 31 until 11 a.m. PST. Please contact Chris Thackray to arrange an interview.

Photos of Mr. Wright are available at http://communications.uvic.ca/releases/mr040330ph.html


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