Sea Music: AJ Wright

The Sea Music Festival at Mystic Seaport (June 8-11) attracts performers from around the world. The Festival also brings to the stage performers from our own backyard! This year we are pleased to have Anayis (AJ) Wright scheduled to take the stage during the festival. AJ has been attended the festival for many years, participated in the Williams-Mystic program at Mystic Seaport, and recently joined our staff!

We had a quick chat with AJ recently about her love of sea music. See you at the Festival!

Name: Anayis (AJ) Wright

Age: 23

Where did you grow up: Landlocked Central Massachusetts, north of Worcester

Education: Majored in music performance (cello) at Clark University, and attended Williams-Mystic.

Have you always sung/played instruments? I always played whatever was around the house, but started taking cello lessons at the age of 7, and picked up concertina in early high school. I seem to have inherited my grandmother’s habit of gathering instruments.

How did you discover chantey music? I heard one or two chanteys from my parents when I was very small, but then when I was a bit older I found the compilation album “Blow The Man Down” and listened to it on repeat. From there I started seeking it out on my own, and eventually in high school started attending the Sea Music Festival. I try to attend every event that I can in order to both learn new songs and learn more about the ones I already know!

You attended the Williams-Mystic program at Mystic Seaport – when was that and what effect did it have on you? My semester at W-M was Fall 2015. I originally learned about it at one of the Sea Music symposiums. The first thing that comes to mind is the incredible experiences traveling to all four coasts, and the sheer variety of things I learned practically from that.

Academically, it was a very different experience than any of my studies towards my major — for example, going from writing music theory papers to analyzing fiction in Literature of the Sea was a huge leap! The professors were always enthusiastic, and it was great to be able to pursue maritime studies in such a supportive and motivating environment.

I have to admit, however, that one of my favorite parts of the semester was Skills. I was in Chantey Skills, which meant that a couple times a week, the other Chantey Skills students and I would sit down with the chantey staff and sing/learn about the form. Often the skill sessions would lead into Dogwatch*, giving us a double chance to sing. One great thing about my semester was that all the Chantey Skill students were in my house (Mallory), so the singing was not constrained to the official sessions — sudden outbursts of song would happen around the house as well!

You just landed a job at Mystic Seaport! What will you be doing here? I will be training for [the demonstration] squad and the chantey program!

What’s your favorite part of the Sea Music Festival at Mystic Seaport? I love the incredible amount of sound and energy. Whether it’s enthusiastic audience participation on the chorus of a familiar song or the anticipation of hearing new songs in other languages, every year there are new things to get excited about.

*Dogwatch happens at 4 p.m., daily aboard the Charles W. Morgan whaleship at Mystic Seaport. The program re-creates for the visiting public the leisure time experience of the crew aboard a 19th century whaleship.