2022 Graduation Speaker: Kyla Wright ’16

in Summer 2022 by

Later this month, we look forward to welcoming Kyla Wright ’16, now entering her final two semesters at Berklee College of Music, as the 2022 Alumni Graduation Speaker.

Music has been a central part of Kyla’s life since her days at Park, and now, the accomplished bass guitar player and pianist is looking forward to everything that will happen next. Already, she has plans to tour with Earth, Wind, and Fire in the months ahead, and once she graduates in December, she’s heading to Los Angeles, where she hopes to intern with a leading music producer.  Particularly for such a young artist, her range and versatility as a musician is impressive – she did an NPR Tiny Desk video with the artist Rico Nasty, and recently went on tour in the U.S. and Haiti with artists Dro and Yani Martelly featuring Wyclef Jean. She’s been fortunate to make some contacts, and get a bit of a toe– perhaps even a foot–in the door, and she’s confident. “Once they see me, I’m going to be running!” Longer term, she hopes to teach music theory and ensembles performance at the college level – perhaps even back at Berklee.

The confidence that buoys Kyla forward draws from her deepest core. She thinks it may come, in part, from her having survived two bouts of cancer before the age of 7. She remembers that time through a child’s eyes, remembering needles, tubes, and losing her hair, and saying to her mother, “I look like my grandfather!” She remembers being teased, a bit, for having no hair by kids at school before she came to Park, but it didn’t dim her confidence. And then she came to Park, in Grade 2, where “people were so sweet and uplifting.” It was, she recalls, a joyful place, happy, “a good time.” She remembers that–and the joy and laughter have stayed with her. 

Laughter and joy are central to what Kyla values when she looks back at her Park experience, “There are just so many stories that still resonate today,” she says. She remembers being part of Mathletes, and loved having the chance to compete at other schools. Because she was good at math, it was a great opportunity for Kyla to excel along with her friends. She also loved that it created opportunities to get to know other students she might otherwise not get to talk to, expanding her circle of friends. In addition, she loved being part of every Park talent show, singing and playing the piano, and she loved the Park tradition of TOTAL Day, when everyone came together to use their talents to have a good time. 

Central to these stories, however, were people she grew to love and appreciate, particularly Alice Lucey and Merle Jacobs. “Ms. Lucey,” she says, “ is one of the sweetest people. She was soft, and I could talk to her any time about a problem or just about my day, and she was so comforting. She really advocated for me, sometimes behind the scenes,” she later learned, “in ways I didn’t know about.”   Merle Jacobs was, Kyla says, “so funny and down to earth. I loved sitting in her office and laughing.” It’s Ms. Jacobs to whom she turned for help refining her speech for Park’s graduation  because “I know she will help me encompass all the laughter and joy I want to put into my speech.” Leaving Park after Grade 9 (as part of Park’s last Grade 9 class) and going on to Boston Trinity Academy in Hyde Park, she recalls, was hard. “The nice, friendly teachers were gone.” The school was small, and she struggled to find “her group,” but what she missed most was the relationships she had had with her teachers at Park. 

Kyla was just midway through her second semester at Berklee when the pandemic shut everything down.  She had expected to be performing more frequently as part of the Berklee curriculum, though having declared a double major in Music Education and Music Business, she found most of her performance opportunities came through engagement in an assortment of wonderful ensembles outside the curriculum. Being local to Boston, Kyla already had a network of fellow musicians with whom she performed at Berklee and beyond. Even in high school, she played at conventions, at outdoor events on Boston Common, at corporate gigs, and at events at spots like The Hard Rock Cafe.  Her Berklee circles expanded these performance opportunities, and brought her together with like-minded peers. 

And then, when things shut down, all that stopped.  “Everyone went home,” she said. “It literally felt like all my friends left me while I stayed in Boston.” She moved back home, returning to campus in Spring 2021, though, she says, “it was still remote college, just me and my roommate and online classes, except for a half hour in-person bass guitar lesson each week.” Kyla reflects, “It’s definitely not the college experience I had wanted, but I made the best of it.”  Now, she’s excited to get on with things, and is doing the summer semester at Berklee so that she can graduate in December.

As she thinks about returning to Park, she’s excited to “see old faces” and also to see the students. “What will they look like? Will they seem very young?” she wonders, or, like the photos she has seen of her mother and friends in their old yearbooks, will they seem surprisingly mature? 

Kyla’s hopes for the Class of 2022 are simple and sincere. She encourages them to have patience, but also be persistent, and she wants them to embrace the idea that “they have to start by starting. There’s no other way. And once you start…you are on your way, things are happening!” This is how she’s looking at her own journey forward as well, and she knows, “Once I get an opportunity, I’ll be ready!”