Nyundo: The breeding ground for musicians

When you talk about Technical and Vocational Education (TVET), what comes to most people’s minds is carpentry, mechanics, baking, welding, bricklaying and tailoring among others. Very few people ever think of music as an option worth exploring in the TVET category. That is why Nyundo School of Arts in the Western Province must be commended for promoting music in the country.
An instructor guides students during a vocal training session. ( All photos by Solomon Asaba)
An instructor guides students during a vocal training session. ( All photos by Solomon Asaba)

When you talk about Technical and Vocational Education (TVET), what comes to most people’s minds is carpentry, mechanics, baking, welding, bricklaying and tailoring among others. Very few people ever think of music as an option worth exploring in the TVET category. That is why Nyundo School of Arts in the Western Province must be commended for promoting music in the country.

Although the school had for decades concentrated on Art & Craft, it added music to its menu last year to cater for the hundreds of talented students who were left out by the many vocational institutions which never catered for them.

“The department now has about 60 students — 30 in first year and the other half in second year,” says Jaques Murigande (commonly known as Popo), the director of the music department.

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Popo (right) and Grant are very optimistic about the music course.

How selection is done

According to Murigande, one must have both talent and at least have completed O’level to stand a chance of joining the school.  Unlike many institutes where you don’t have to for instance prove that you have a gift for baking or repairing radios before being admitted, Nyundo School of Arts believes in seeing first.

“We identify talent through auditions conducted in every district in the country once a year,” Murigande explains.

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A student plays a keyboard at Nyundo School of Arts last week.

For instance auditions were conducted from November and December last year to select first year students whose term started last month.  Although the response from the public was overwhelming, the panel of five judges could only select 30 students for the three-year music course.  

 “Much as we want to promote talent, the slots are limited. We can only accommodate a limited number of people at the school,” Murigande adds.

And as if to prove that it is the early bird that catches the worm, students will not be required to pay any coin for the first three years courtesy of government. All that one needs is their brain and commitment.

 “After the first three years, tuition structures will be introduced and each student will be required to pay some money,” Murigande says.

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The school has a well equipped band which is often hired by established artistes.

Life at the school

Nyundo School of Arts has both local and foreign music teachers. It also has the most important music instruments such as keyboards, drums, guitars, violins and trumpets among others. The school also has a production studio with the latest music software and some of the best vocal trainers. Surely students are spoilt for choice. But Murigande says they encourage learners to specialize in order to master certain areas well. 

“We have various course modules that we teach. When a student for example majors in vocal techniques, they are expected to attend class for 120 hours,” Murigande notes.

Vicent Warui, an instructor in charge of music production and sound engineering, says students are mainly taught how to use modern technology and software. He cited digital audio work stations and proto tools used to edit videos and record songs as some of the latest softwares in music.

“This is the latest software used by musicians and producers, so when our students get enough exposure through editing and recording songs, they can apply the skills elsewhere,” he explains.

Besides production, Warui also takes students through piano lessons which are essential in understanding the different keys and tunes.

According to Kathy Grant, an instructor at the school and gospel artiste from Canada, the lessons target skills development.

“All artistes have unique aspects. Some are good at singing while others are good at writing and we try to promote all skills at the school,” Grant explains.

But she also has some advice for parents and guardians.

“Most people adapt talent from the places they spend a lot of time such as churches,” she says

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A student produces music in the school’s studio.

Musicians speak out

Tom Close, who is one of the most popular artistes in Rwanda, says the music school is likely to produce musicians who will compete at the international stage.

 “The students backed me up during my album launch on December 6 last year. I was very impressed with their band,” he says. 

Christopher Muneza of Kina Music also points out that the more the students get exposed to the real music world, the more they gain experience.

“I believe the school is on the right track and there is reason to hope for the best,” he adds.

The power of music

Many developing economies have not fully embraced music as a career. They tend to limit its significance to social events such as weddings, funerals, small concerts and prayer-and-worship sessions in church. As a result, very little, if any, money is dedicated to setting up music schools. Perhaps that is why most famous musicians in these countries are self-made.

But this is different in the West. Actually music is one of their most effective marketing tools and biggest earners. A case in point is the USA which largely known for producing the biggest artistes in the world. The music industry also employs thousands of people. For example the Recording Industry Association of America recently reported that 71,000 jobs and 12.5 billion dollars are lost whenever people illegally download music. According to the report, the losers are the engineers, songwriters, producers, technicians and marketing staff.

A 2013 economic study in the UK also established that the music industry contributed about £3.5 billion to the country’s economy.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  

Students share their views

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Igor Mabano
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Esther Niyifasha

Igor Mabano

I am studying how to play different instruments such as a keyboard and guitar among others. I am also involved in production and playing around with sound. Fortunately I have plenty of time to practice and I believe I will become a good musician.

Esther Niyifasha

I had always wanted to learn how to play musical instruments and finally the opportunity struck. I am also learning vocal techniques and I have no doubt I will become a top musician after my studies. I am enjoying every minute in this school.

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JMV Kaneza
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Tabitha Uwizera

JMV Kaneza

I went through auditions before being admitted to this school. I came to study traditional instruments and vocal techniques and I’m very happy with my teachers because they are passionate about what they do.

Tabitha Uwizera

My main interest is instruments, production and sound techniques. I believe we have the best instruments which will give me the experience and exposure I need to become a top musician a few years from today.

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Joel Uwikunda
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Sylvie Musabwamana

Joel Uwikunda

I am studying instruments and production of music. I am confident this is the best music school in the country because I have access to the latest gadgets and software. The instructors also know what they are doing. More interesting is the fact that both the students and teachers love passion.

Sylvie Musabwamana

The auditions were very interesting and I’m so glad I made it here. Although I’m more interested in vocal techniques, I also take time to learn how to play other instruments. The teachers and students are also very helpful.