DOWNEY – When you hear an orchestra playing beautiful music, do you feel like raising your arms and pretending to conduct the music? Me too! But long-time Downey resident Terry Wright is about to take the next step.
Last April, she won the annual Downey Symphony baton auction, and she will conduct the first piece the Orchestra plays at its concert April 8. We sat down with Terry to talk about what led her to this exciting moment and why it means so much to her.
Downey Symphony Orchestra: How did you come to your love of music?
TW: It’s a family tradition. My grandfather was a miner in Jerome, AZ. He died young of black-lung disease, leaving my grandmother with nine children. To help pay bills, she took in boarders. One of them was a musician, and in exchange for rent, he offered to give lessons to all the kids. And all of them ended up making their living in music.
DSO: So you grew up surrounded by music?
TW: Oh, yes. I cherish my childhood memories of being at my grandmother’s house, hearing my godmother play piano concerts or my godfather play the violin so beautifully it brought tears to my eyes. My uncles played various instruments and filled the house with Latin rhythms. My mother and aunts played and sang. To this day, Guerrero family gatherings always include music and song.
DSO: Did you study music as well?
TW: Well, I did study violin for a few years back in the day when elementary schools in the LA School District had orchestras and gave free lessons. But my dad was a Mexican immigrant and laborer, and with six kids, we didn’t have much money. So I had to give it up. That’s why I’m such a strong supporter of the Downey Symphony’s Music in the Schools Program. Music was a wonderful gift to me and very important in my life. And on holidays, there was always music in my family.
DSO: How did you discover the Downey Symphony?
TW: My godmother was a concert pianist and played at the Cathedral downtown. In summers, she took me to the Hollywood Bowl concerts and would explain everything to me, just the way Sharon Lavery does in her pre-concert talks at the Symphony. My husband and I have lived in Downey for 36 years. I read about the Symphony in the newspaper and started going. My husband came with me and we’ve been season subscribers for some time. It was wonderful to hear such an excellent orchestra right here in Downey.
DSO: When did you decide to bid in the baton auction?
TW: I watched people bidding and decided I wanted to do that too. When I told my husband, he said, “You’re crazy!” But I saved for three years and my children helped too. My husband told me not to bid all I’d saved at once, but to stretch it out so the audience would have fun! This is really a long-term dream—to honor the Guerrero family and once again be that little girl in the midst of talented musicians making beautiful music.
DSO: How did you decide to conduct Bach’s “Jesu, joy of man’s desiring”?
TW: Usually the baton winner conducts a march, but that didn’t speak to me. I’ve heard Bach’s piece many times, and it’s a favorite. I wanted to honor my family and friends, and in my heart, this will be a prayer of thanksgiving for having such a musical family.
DSO: You worked at Rancho and at the Sheriff’s Department for many years. What do you do now that you’re retired?
TW: I volunteer at church and as a tutor for the library’s literacy program. I’m also a staunch supporter of music programs at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary School. Exposure to art and music is a life-long gift that enhances the creative and overall development of children.
DSO: It sounds like you’re busy in a wonderful way! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
TW: If you love music and want to keep the Symphony in Downey, the only way is to show support, even if you don’t have a lot of money. And what better way than to go beyond yourself, even your nervousness, and do what you know is a good thing! Sometimes you just have to stand up for what you believe in. Bravo Maestra Sharon Lavery and the Downey Symphony!