Toki Wright has been named chair of Berklee College of Music’s professional music department, effective since November 1, 2019.
Wright is an acclaimed MC, producer, writer, radio host, arts diplomat, and community organiser, and was made the second assistant chair in the department’s history in July 2018.
Darla Hanley, dean of the professional education division at Berklee, commented: “Toki brings a unique perspective as an experienced educator, administrator, hip-hop artist, producer, community leader, and media personality. Our department is all about pursuing multiple professional interests, and Toki is a fantastic role model of that for our students.”
Wright’s work at McNally Smith College of Music created the country’s first fully accredited hip-hop studies programme, which received the Best Transformative Higher Learning Model award from the Hip-Hop Education Center at New York University. As a community organiser, Wright led the youth nonprofit organization Yo! The Movement, facilitating seven Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-Hop festivals and other community actions. He also helped establish Hip-Hop at H.E.A.L.S., teaching performance to former child soldiers in Gulu, Uganda, and promoting the careers of hip-hop artists in Croatia and Sierra Leone.
“Coming to Berklee in 2018 became a turning point in my journey navigating through the worlds of music, education, community development, policy, and media,” said Wright. “When my former institution closed, Berklee took on the incredible role of accepting the transfer of many students who were left with few options to complete their educational journey. It displayed not only the power of Berklee, but also its willingness to help students in need.”
Wright’s will continue to apply his holistic approach to education in his new position, with a focus on providing students the support they need to be successful in “their education, optimism, financial stability, experiential learning, and problem-solving, as well as health and wellness,” as Wright explained.
As a professional musician himself, Wright has released albums through his imprint, Soul Tools Entertainment, and the historic Rhymesayers Entertainment label, and has performed at events such as Coachella and Rock the Bells. He has toured and collaborated with acts such as Atmosphere, Brother Ali, the late Sean Price, Talib Kweli, BJ the Chicago Kid, Caroline Smith, P.O.S., G Yamazawa, and others.
A two-time Emmy Award winner, Wright co-curated the two-time CLIO award–winning and Cannes Lions–nominated Watch the Stove mixtape for Hamburger Helper/General Mills, one of the biggest viral marketing campaigns of 2016. Wright also created Soul Tools Radio on KFAI-FM in Minneapolis in 2013 and hosts Wright About Now on American Public Media’s The Current. He hosts several arts and music events, writes for Insight News, and is a judge for NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest.