Bruce Morton Wright was an iconic figure at Gannon University and in the Erie community before his passing in 2011.

A local nonprofit organization, ArtsErie, has ensured that Wright’s legacy will live on by creating an award in his memory, the “Bruce Morton Wright Artist of the Year Award.” ArtsErie named the award for Wright to recognize his “lifetime achievements,” including the many years he served as director and conductor of Gannon University’s Erie Chamber Orchestra.

The Bruce Morton Wright Artist of the Year Award was presented for the first time this year. Tom Ferraro, a local artist, educator and co-director of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Artists Association, was the recipient.

Ferraro was one of the honorees at ArtsErie’s annual meeting and awards ceremony, “Fall for The Arts.” Rev. Shawn Clerkin, associate professor and director of the Gannon University theatre program, presented the award to Ferraro.

The Bruce Morton Wright Artist of the Year Award recognizes an artist who has made a “significant impact on the arts and the cultural landscape” through his or her personal commitment and leadership. The award also acknowledges a local artist for his or her contributions to the community and for mentoring other artists.

“Bruce’s cultural mission was to introduce classical music and enrich the quality of life for the people of this community by providing both orchestra and opera performances free of charge,” ArtsErie noted in a news release.

“Fall for The Arts” was sponsored by the Barber National Institute, MacDonald Illig Jones and Britton LLP, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, and BNY Mellon. Award nominations were voted on by ArtsErie’s board of directors.

More about Bruce Morton Wright

Wright was an instructor of fine arts at Gannon and director/conductor of the Gannon University Erie Chamber Orchestra, which was the successor to the Erie Bayfront Orchestra, founded by Wright in 1978. Wright also served as director/conductor of the Erie Opera Theatre, which he founded in 1983, and was assistant conductor of the Vienna Conservatory, among his other appointments.

A graduate of Strong Vincent High School, Wright in 1969 earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Gannon and Mercyhurst College and continued his education at the Vienna Conservatory of Music, earning a Kapellmeister degree in music in 1973. Wright also earned a master of public administration degree from Gannon University in 2000.

He died of multiple myeloma on July 29, 2011, at age 65.

More about ArtsErie

ArtsErie, formerly the Arts Council of Erie, envisions universal access to the arts. The organization strives to nurture the arts and enrich the lives of people in the Erie community through leadership, financial support, education, and advocacy.

By promoting the arts locally, ArtsErie enables people to experience the arts in many varied forms. The organization also educates youth through artist residencies and supports local artists and art organizations.

This article was originally published on Oct. 31, 2012 on