As one of the world’s great traditional old-time and bluegrass fiddlers, the late Fletcher Bright dedicated his life to sharing his gifts with others. So when his daughter Lizzer Bright Graham ’77 wanted to honor his legacy through a gift to Girls Preparatory School, she knew it had to celebrate the arts. The result is the GPS Fletcher Bright Fellowship for Artistic and Community Engagement, an endowed program that offers an annual award to a rising senior.
“As a lifelong philanthropist, my dad designated money in his will for each of his five children to give away as we saw fit,” explains Graham, a GPS alumna, past parent, and former trustee. “He would be thrilled to know this is how the money is being used.”
The first recipient, junior Jadyn Matthews, was selected January 19 before a panel of five judges. She was a standout candidate not only for her accomplishments in dance but also her desire to share her passion with the greater Chattanooga community. The fellowship will allow her to attend master classes with Kelly Seph White, a New Orleans and New York dance instructor, and then use her knowledge to teach young children in the Chattanooga area.
“Her passion for dance is clearly evident and infectious,” says Andrew Parker, Company Artistic Director of Chattanooga Ballet and one of the fellowship judges. “She has a very clear vision for her project and is a very passionate and determined young leader.”
Jadyn has pursued dance at GPS since her sixth grade year and was selected for the school’s prestigious modern dance company, Terpsichord, her sophomore year. But her passion for dance began in elementary school, taking classes at her local rec center.
When she returns from working with White, Jadyn will teach at Chattanooga community centers such as the Glenwood Recreation Center, where she has previously tutored. She will be guided in her teaching by her fellowship sponsor Cathie Ault Kasch ’72, GPS performing arts coordinator and director of Terpsichord.
Jadyn says her purpose for seeking the fellowship was to interconnect her three greatest passions: cultural studies, the art and techniques of dance, and sharing her gifts and talents with children. As a performer, choreographer, researcher, and dance educator, White specializes in Afro-Caribbean dance—a dance form that speaks deeply to Jadyn.
“Dance has helped me connect with others as well as myself,” Jadyn says. “Studying under Ms. White will allow me to discover more about a culture that impacts me through dance, but also my ethnic background as well.”
Jadyn plans to pursue dance throughout college and possibly as a career. She hopes that a better understanding of the culture and techniques behind Afro-Caribbean dance will help develop and inform her creative voice and style.
“The exceptional thing about Jadyn is her spirit; she brings a joie de vivre to every class,” says Kasch. “She has selected an outstanding mentor for this next stage of learning, and I know she will enjoy sharing her new knowledge with local children over the next year.”
Teaching others was something Bright also deeply valued. His vast repertoire of fiddle tunes is legendary, and throughout his 70-year musical career he helped keep a sometimes obscure art form alive by teaching fiddle across the country as well as in England and Canada.
“With this fellowship, I hope to give back to the Chattanooga community and those centers and children who have inspired me to live a life full of dance, community involvement, and volunteerism,” Jadyn says. “To immerse in study with and learn under a multicultural dance professional is invaluable. I’m honored to then be able to share what I have learned to benefit others, lifting as I climb!”