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Inspirational Seattle pastor and Total Experience Gospel Choir Founder Pat Wright has died

Pastor Pat Wright with members of her Total Experience Gospel Choir sing for the Seattle City Council, 2014
Seattle City Council
Public Domain
Pastor Pat Wright with members of her Total Experience Gospel Choir sing for the Seattle City Council, 2014.

Patrinell "Pat" Wright lived a life dedicated to gospel music and service to her community. She died August 30 after a long illness, according to friends.

Wright hailed from Carthage, Texas, born to a large family of Baptist preachers and school teachers. She sang her first church solo at age three, and at 14, she was directing two choirs in her father's church.

After college, Wright moved to Seattle in 1964, and in 1973 she founded Seattle’s longest- lasting and most prominent community gospel choir, the Total Experience Gospel Choir.

The choir was originally established for Black children and teens at Franklin High School and was combined with a similar program at Roosevelt High School. When both schools lost funding for such programs, Wright continued to instruct and lead the group from Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

In a 2017 interview with "Hella Black Hella Seattle" co-host Eula Scott Bynoe that airedon KNKX, Wright said that when she started the choir class in 1973, there wasn't enough space at the school to take all the kids. That's when she turned to her church for more space.

“I ended up with 112 kids the very first night," she said.

Adults began participating in the choir in the 1990s, and as the ethnic makeup of Seattle's Central District changed, so did the choir.

KNKX: Meet Seattle's 'Queen Of Gospel'
Listen to a 2017 interview with Pastor Pat Wright

The Total Experience Gospel Choir recorded seven albums and performed in 33 states and 28 countries over the course of 45 years, before their final appearance in October 2018.

“The Total Experience Choir was not supposed to still be together," Wright told Bynoe.

"We were ostracized and criticized because the young people wouldn’t sing in their church choirs but I had them lined up to get into Total Experience.”

What was the difference? “I didn’t preach to them, they came in to do the music," Wright said.

“You can’t make old folks out of young people.”

By official proclamation, October 7, 2018 was designated as "Total Experience Gospel Choir Day" in King County.

In 2019, the documentary film "Patrinell: The Total Experience" played at film festivals around the country, and won several awards.

Often referred to as Seattle's "First Lady of Gospel," Wright liked awards, and had a garage full of them. She was especially proud of having sung for Presidents, and specifically for Barack Obama.

But her focus and her mission was always service to her community, with an emphasis on supporting and uplifting young people.

Updated: September 2, 2022 at 11:16 AM PDT
Added quotes and audio from 2017 interview with Pat Wright.
Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.