The Arts

April 14, 2018

Scaling hurdles 1 & 2 in my quest to study music

By November 30, 1987 I had written the last paper in the November/December GCE and scaled hurdle 1 – getting my basic qualifications for admission. In 1988 I bought the Joint Matriculation Exam forms. After filling the form I took it to my father to sign the parent/guardian attestation page. That was hurdle 2.

I stood there watching him as he read through the completed registration form. At one point his face twisted and he asked: “Music? What do you know about music? You don’t have any basic qualification in music as a subject, do you?

“No sir. Not yet,” I murmured.

“And so, how do you intend to do it?” His tone concealed disappointment.

“I have started studying music theory. Someone is already teaching me. Before the date of the Matriculation exam I will learn enough to enable me pass the subject. OAU Ife waves music for applicants who pass the subject in JME.”

He shrugged his shoulders and signed the forms. He probably believed it was one of those several infatuations young people had for different professions before they eventually settled for the right one. He believed I will come back to study law. And he was right. At a point, I wanted to change from music to law and my father wrote a personal letter to the Dean, Faculty of Law urging him to assist me crossover from music to law. I never submitted the letter to the Dean of law. After I got back to school I changed my mind again and determined to complete the degree in music.

What was responsible for the change of mind? Quite a number of people who go to study Art Music in higher institutions do not always understand the curriculum content of Art Music. For students who come to study music with the mindset of “I want to be like Fela, Dr Sir Warrior, Sonny Okosun, Sunny Ade, Michael Jackson, etc.,” music education in higher institution is definitely not the place for the fulfillment of such ambition. In fact, it’s most likely that no one is going to teach you any meaningful thing regarding such genres of music until you graduated. You are there mainly to study CLASSICAL MUSIC!

I did not come to Ife straight. I first went to the Alvan Ikoku College of Education in 1988 for what was called NCE double major in music education after I failed to meet the cutoff point in JME that year. I scored 211. Writing two separate entrance exams in 1988 was a good strategy. Alvan admitted me. Alvan was a great asset to me and I enjoyed my stay in the school. One late Mr. Cyprian Nwosu from my village had studied music education at Alvan. In fact it was Mr. Cyprian Nwosu that I went to seek help for lessons in music theory after I registered for JME 1988.

My encounter with Mr. Cyprian is recorded in detail in a journal I kept 30 years ago. We met at a very turbulent stage of my life (as I am writing this, on 20/03/2018: 03:52 PM, my 6 years old son, Munachimso, came to me and said, “…Daddy, what will I be when I get to university? I said, “Professor. Everybody has agreed you will be a prof.” He said, “Yes, I know. But I also want to be the King of the world. I said, “Yes, that’s good!”).

By January 1988 I was still filled with doubt as to whether I will be able to study music in the university or not. Out of the 3 hurdles I must scale to get there, only the acquisition of sufficient knowledge of music theory to enable me pass music in JME was still un-scaled. On the evening of 7 January 1988 in Umunakara, I ran into Mr. Cyprian Nwosu, a brilliant primary school teacher. He was recently offered admission to study music education at Alvan Ikoku. I congratulated him and expressed my happiness for the course he had chosen. I disclosed to him of my own desire to study music in the university but added that the problem was I did not know anything about theory of music. I asked if he could lend me some music books to read. He not only promised to lend me books, but also offered to give me some lessons on theory of music. I was so excited.