By Seye Aluko
World-rated Choral and Orchestral Conductor, Music Director, Organist, Vocal Coach, Deputy-Director of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) School of Music, and an Impresario, Sir Emeka Nwokedi, added more feathers to his cap when in 2019 alone he received 4 different awards conferred by notable organizations.
These include the Association of Nigerian Musicologists (ANIM), which conferred him with the Ambassador of Music Award at its 17th Annual National Conference (19th – 23rd August 2019) hosted by the Department of Theatre Arts and Music, Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos.
This (award) is in recognition of Nwokedi’s commendable contributions to the development and sustainability of music education and musical practices in Nigeria.
The great Maestro was also greatly commended for promoting Nigerian/African Choral Music around the world.
A second award for choral music excellence was conferred on him at the ECOWAS Choir Festival in Togo, facilitated by Soprano Events and Evangeliste Premier Lolonge Dogbe. Coming after this was an “Award of Excellence in promotion of African Choral Music in Diaspora”.
This was given by the Department of the Creative Arts of the University of Lagos at its Africa Sings Festival. Nwokedi also bagged a prestigious Ghanaian Award in the form of a musical chieftaincy title – “The Nana of African Choral Music”.
This award was conferred on him in Accra, Ghana by the Choral Musicians Union of Ghana, in conjunction with Geonaa Music Consult. Again, the award was in recognition for his showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Nigeria and the African continent on several stages across the world.
According to Mr. Louis Mbanefo, the Chairman of Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON), who brought the news of Nwokedi’s exploits to a full capacity audience at a MUSON concert, he said: “These awards show that Nwokedi has been publicly acknowledged as a leading musical light by foreign countries.
But it is ironic that Nwokedi, in spite of his towering musical exploits in Nigeria and abroad, has not garnered such recognition in his own country.” These facts reinforce the Biblical statement “A prophet is not without honour but in his own country and among his own kin, and in his own home”. (Mark 6:4)
For any classical music enthusiast who has frequented MUSON and attended its numerous concerts, seminars, operas, festivals, etc. would have noted that Sir Emeka Nwokedi has always been prominent as MUSON’s choral/orchestral Conductor of choice, as he bestrides MUSON’s choral productions like a colossus.
It is Nwokedi who has trained the MUSON Choir to become a world-rated outfit, and it is Nwokedi who has led the MUSON Diploma School Choir to several international outings where the choir won accolades and laurels.
The choir has been to Beijing, China on two occasions, first, on invitation from the International Society for Music Education (ISME) to perform at the 8th International Conference of the Society.
The second by the Embassy of Nigeria in Beijing to perform in a Gala Concert to celebrate Nigeria’s Golden Jubilee Anniversary in October 2010. Again, under Nwokedi’s baton, the choir won the championship at the Youth Choir category at the 7th International Choir Festival “Isola del Sole” held in Grado, Italy in October 2015.
Aside from the above, Sir Emeka Nwokedi has toured extensively different parts of the world with the Lagos City Chorale, participating in the world’s largest choral festivals/competitions, and winning several laurels.
Indeed Nwokedi’s curriculum vitae, and of the choirs, he has conducted in Nigeria and other parts of the world are too numerous, and would fill pages.
Nwokedi is a very busy man with a very tight schedule, and he alternates his efforts between his MUSON office, church choirs, and concert halls.
That he has been able to outstrip his contemporaries in his musical exploits he attributes to “the Grace of Almighty God,” and he claims he has “a musical vision,” which aims to “rebrand Nigeria,” as a country with rich artistic potentials, and not merely as one possessing unfortunate “negative tendencies.”
Therefore, Nwokedi works especially with youngsters and has been the coordinator of the Shell Choral Competition for Secondary Schools. This competition did not only raise the standard of music in secondary schools but also produced youths who took music as a career.
Nwokedi notes that (unfortunately) there is no governmental support for serious music in the country. He claims that it was early in his musical career that he came across the Musical Society of Nigeria, which was a society of like-minded musical enthusiasts.
After an exquisite performance of Haydn’s Creation at the Banquet Hall of Eko Hotel by the Lagos City Chorale in 1991, which Emeka directed, the renowned Nigerian Accountant, Mr. Akintola Williams (then the Chairman of MUSON) and Louis Mbanefo, Vice Chairman, MUSON approached him and invited him (Nwokedi) to MUSON and charged him to establish such standard he exhibited at the concert in MUSON.
He obliged them and coming to MUSON, he became a member of the Artiste Committee in 1992, he later established the MUSON Choir in 1995 and has been its Director till date.
With the establishment of MTNF/MUSON Diploma School of Music in 2006, Nwokedi became a pioneer staff with Mrs. Marion Akpata and Dr. Paul Konye. He entered the role of a music educator, becoming a mentor and a teacher to scores of students, many of whom are making waves in the music world.
Nwokedi was present in the year 2005 when the Telecommunications Giant MTN took the laudable step of offering full yearly scholarships to 30 students each year in the classical instruments: voice, guitar, violin, clarinet, flute, cello, saxophone, etc. MTN, therefore, assured Nigerian students who were as talented as their contemporaries abroad that they would not be disadvantaged by a lack of funding, and they would be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with musicians and composers from other countries in the world. By this laudable gesture, MTN has “given back to society” in a most glorious manner.
So, it is now time to congratulate Nwokedi as he adds to his dazzling array of awards and encomiums, and one can only wish him “more grease to his elbows.”